Thriving with Epilepsy: Hafsa Yusuf

In February, we are pleased to introduce you to Hafsa Yusuf, a Winona State University freshman, an Elam Baer & Janis Clay Scholarship recipient, and Day Camp volunteer.

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Hafsa's Personal Story with Epilepsy

1. Tell us about your journey with epilepsy.
I had my first seizure when I was one year old. Unfortunately, during my younger years, the hospital became more like a home to me than my actual house. As I grew up, sometimes I would get sudden pains, but I was often able to cope with the pain without a trip to the hospital. Then, when undergoing brain surgery, doctors found tissue that was disturbing my brain cycle. Fortunately I haven’t had a seizure since my surgery, but am prepared in case they do come back. Overall, I don’t let my seizures get in the way of my goals.

2. What was your experience with school like?
I went to a small charter school for kindergarten through eighth grade. Everyone knew each other and all of my classmates were aware of my seizures. However, when I began high school, I was very afraid to tell others about the history of my seizures. I was worried that they would put me in a special education class or that I would be faced with bullying. I begged my parents to not mention anything about my seizures; however, little did I know, the school already had access to my records.

My grades weren’t always at the top, but I managed to do my best, especially when it came to tests. Unfortunately, if I didn’t understand something that my teachers taught, staying after school to ask for help was not an option. With my mom and dad working full-time, I had to get home to watch over my siblings. I had to sacrifice part of my education for them.

Towards the end of high school, I started to get very stressed out and was contemplating dropping out of school. Fortunately, my English teacher and College Possible mentor supported me, steered me in the right direction, and I successfully graduated from high school.

3. What are your aspirations/goals for your future?
Growing up and spending so much time in the hospital opened my eyes to having a passion for working with children. I love helping people – especially my siblings. I come from a family of nine children, and enjoy watching after them, providing meals and getting them ready for bed. When I’m not busy at home, I manage to find time to volunteer at Children's Hospital. One day I hope to work at a hospital as a physician's assistant where I will have the opportunity to help people every day.

4. What does the Elam Baer & Janis Clay Scholarship mean to you?
I believe that I truly deserved to go to college. Even though I come from a low-income family and my parents came from Somalia in 1990 after war broke out, I’m also from a family where you never sit around – a family who sticks together through thick and thin. I’m the oldest of nine kids and have hopes to be the first family member to attend and graduate from college.

The Elam Baer & Janis Clay Scholarship has significantly helped me with paying for my college education. I don’t know where I would be right now if it wasn’t for their generous help. It has given me a chance to fulfill my dreams of someday becoming a pediatrician and rise above my seizures.


Apply for the Elam Baer & Janis Clay Scholarship!
Applications are currently open for the 2017 Elam Baer & Janis Clay Scholarship. Students who have shown courage in dealing with epilepsy, commitment to their education, and perseverance in eliminating the obstacles that epilepsy may presents are welcome to apply.

Visit here to learn about eligibility guidelines and our selection process. Applications are due by noon on Monday, April 3, 2017.

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