Balize Nilema was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania after her family escaped war-torn Burundi in East Africa. At age 5 she and her family were able to move to America, where eventually they settled in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
It is where this 20-year-old and her family began the process of building a new life. Adjustments to a new language, culture and education system were difficult and in some ways persist to this day.
She continued to identify with the struggles she and her family have endured, however. She has incorporated them into a career plan to help others who have dealt with some of the same issues she dealt with.
Nilema had a stuttering problem growing up that was connected to being overwhelmed by an environment that often seemed unfamiliar. During a recent interview with a Sioux Falls television station it was clear she’s now very comfortable with talking about her life and her aspirations.
“I want to help kids first,” she said. “I feel like they deal with a lot when they’re in elementary school because some kids can be pretty judgy so I want to help them so they can feel more confident.”
She was recently awarded a Sanford Health Equity in Education Scholarship that will help her to continue to target a career as a speech pathologist.
This scholarship program serves underrepresented and traditionally underserved populations seeking higher education. Award recipients like Nilema must demonstrate exceptional character and leadership in furthering their own progress and in enriching the lives of others, especially in service, academics, and community involvement and impact.
Now working at Sanford in food services, Nilema is also attending the University of South Dakota – Sioux Falls this year. She’s attending Augustana University in the fall. She equates additional education with additional opportunities.
“I want to help my parents,” she said. “I want to build a better life for them while I’m furthering my own education.”
In Nilema’s application for an Equity in Education Scholarship, she made it clear the motivation to help herself stems from a motivation to help others. As she recounted in pursuing a degree in speech language pathology, she wrote:
“Majoring in this field will allow me to help my people back home. Living in Africa has a lot of consequences. It requires a lot of money to even be seen by a doctor. Many kids are orphans and are abandoned by their parents just because they can’t afford treatment for their kids. All I want to do is help kids as if they were my own.”
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