AnisaAsmaBorn in Utah to Somali refugees who escaped to Kenya, twin sisters, Anisa and Asma, faced many of the same challenges had they been born in Somali. As small children they spoke limited English and the cultural divide was tremendous. According to Anisa, “I may have been born here, but I felt like a refugee growing up.” Their greatest struggle was the English language barrier. When the girls were six years old, their journey became a little easier when they were each assigned a Big Sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah. The sisters set an early goal of speaking the English language fluently without an accent. They both worked diligently with their mentors and in the ESL coursework offered at their school. They are now enrolled in the Mentor 2.0 program which focuses on college readiness for first-generation college students. They are proud to say that they have achieved their dream of English fluency and are no longer enrolled in ESL.

“My mentor Gayle encouraged me to study English after school and would help me with difficult pronunciations, said Asma. “I want to be a doctor and more specifically a surgeon.” Gayle has helped her every step of the way in finding a path to college, doing everything from giving her advice on how to apply for financial aid to sharing her own daughter’s experience in becoming a pharmacist. She even helped her to improve her study habits.

Anisa’s dream is to be a Pediatric Surgeon or a pediatrician. Her mentor Shannon has been a great help. According to Anisa, “Shannon is always sending me great information on workshops to prepare for pre-med college coursework and we’ve gone on a lot of campus visits together.”

Anisa 2Recently the sisters decided they wanted to “open the eyes of other people” and have become mentors themselves to their Little Sisters, Asia and Ingrid, both first graders in South Salt Lake. There is no doubt that these incredible sisters will shine their positive light on the lives of their new Little Sisters.

Asma 2At the Heart of Our Community are people like Anisa and Asma and organizations like the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah where the goal is to provide Utah Children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported, one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better. It’s what makes Our Community great!

For more information about the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah or to become a Big Brother Big Sister volunteer or donate visit

Anisa and Asma’s story is brought to you through the Utah Bankers Heart of Our Community initiative. For more stories like Anisa and Asma’s follow our blog at or on FaceBook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest #heartofourcommunity #utahsbanks #bigbrothersbigsisters