Nigerian refugee family marks new chapter with TSU graduation

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Long before the militant group Boko Haram made news in America, Rabi Midala and her family saw their trail of terror up close in Northern Nigeria.

"They burned down my father's house simply because he allowed his daughter to acquire the western education," Rabi says.

This happened while she was studying hundreds of miles away to get a GED in Lagos. To survive and to find better opportunities, in 2009, she brought her four children to the safer and greener pastures of America.

"I had to leave because I had a passion. I just wanted to be heard, to be seen like other women in other states," she says.

Rabi enrolled in developmental classes at Lone Star College. Her daughters Magdaline and Sidamari went to Westfield High.

"When I got here, just the accent --I couldn't understand the teachers, or the students," says Sidamari Midala. "It was just so hard for me especially because English isn't my first language. It's my third. A lot of people were laughing at me and my accent in high school."

All three ended up at Texas Southern University.

"They were taking 21 credit hours. I was taking just 12 hours. They were good. I was sweating just to make those hours. If I took 21 credit hours, I would have collapsed," Rabi said through laughter.

On Saturday, they'll graduate together.

"It's not a common thing from where I come from to have mom and sister and myself graduate at the same time," Sidamari says. "So I'm really looking forward to it."

All three will graduate with honors. The daughters with degrees in biology, and Rabi with a business degree.

"I sleep three hours a night Monday through Friday," says Rabi.

They say they couldn't have done it without her brother who has supported them financially since they got here. His only request of her was simple.

"Just be successful. Just be who you want to be. You are here to be who you want to be," she says he told her.

The Midala women are well on their way. Rabi will help run the family business and take a break from school for a few months. Sidamari plans to attend medical school at UTMB. And Magdalene plans to enroll in the Pharmacy School at TSU.
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