Fifth Grade Scholarship Sparks Dominican Dream

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When Romisa Shakeriniasar moved to the United States from Iran in fifth grade, she worked so hard and was so determined to overcome language and cultural barriers that she received a Consistent Achievers Award at Vallecito Elementary School. It was a scholarship to Dominican.

“It gave my life a new and positive perspective that everyone hopes for,” Romisa recalls. “Dominican from then on was always a path I could look forward to pursuing, as it was the first place that opened its arms to me.”

Romisa, who graduated from Terra Linda High School in June, is enrolled in the School of Health and Natural Sciences as a Health Sciences/Pre-Occupational Therapy major. She worked with an Occupational Therapist while being treated for a childhood injury, and that interaction inspired her to consider OT as a profession, specifically working with children.

Romisa is excited about engaging with Dominican’s diverse student and faculty population and developing her interest in leadership. This past year she was nominated by the San Rafael City Schools (SRCS) District to represent Terra Linda as an AVID student, ASB Council leader, and as a student board representative. She used that platform during a live Facebook town meeting to offer a student perspective about the ongoing pandemic, which included grading options for students to choose either a traditional letter grade or a credit/no credit mark this spring in wake of the COVID-19 shutdown.

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The inspiration for Romisa to seek leadership roles came from Erik Stenberg, her high school AVID and English teacher who encouraged her to run for Junior Class president prior to his sudden and unexpected death in 2018. She honored the popular English teacher by running for Student Board Representative, which gave her the opportunity to organize her own events and bring awareness and solutions to her school. She wanted to be a voice for students at TLHS.

“I have been able to unify the students and make sure their voices are being heard, in addition to bringing them together and supporting their needs,” Romisa says. “For instance, I was able to plan, organize and host the annual Newcomers Thanksgiving for the 81 immigrants who joined our school this year. The event, which also hosted the leadership class, gathered 132 students together. It is important to remember that our future community starts small and from a place of learning. Therefore, I was honored that I had a hand in forming a safe place for people to gather and enjoy the true meaning of Thanksgiving.”

Romisa has been giving thanks since she came with her family from Tehran to California seeking a better educational path. It wasn’t easy.

“I found it difficult to blend in and make friends as my peers would hesitate to approach me. When teachers and students did make an attempt to talk to me, all I could see was their lips moving, as I could not understand them,” Romisa says. “All I could feel was frustration and confusion. I went through testing and many English preparation classes during fifth grade.”

Then she won the Consistent Achievers Award, given annually to a student with a consistent commitment to good citizenship and to developing their highest academic potential.

Seven years later, she is prepared to enter the Occupational Therapy department’s 4 + 1 program, which enables her to earn an MSOT degree in five years’ time. During that time, Romisa intends to become involved with Associated Students of Dominican University (ASDU) and a variety of clubs and organizations, just as she did at Terra Linda High School.

“I hope to bring pure joy and happiness along with feeling wanted and welcomed into the campus,” Romisa says.

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