A chance coincidence on a trip to Vancouver found a nervous, late-20s, Israeli-born, former soccer star sitting in the admissions office at Stenberg College. Fawzi Ahmad had just stopped by the school to have a look around. After all, Fawzi had only recently learned to speak English, and was still having trouble writing it; could he possibly be ready for college?
Sitting across from an admissions officer, discussing one of the healthcare programs, Fawzi’s gaze wandered to a wall peppered with framed awards and photographs, including one with a proud graduate in cap and gown, grinning, beneath the proclamation “2011 student of the Year Award.” less than two years later, Fawzi’s drive and dedication would see him achieve even greater accolades. With the odds stacked against him, Fawzi persevered, and his journey will inspire the ambition of students, no matter their field of study.
Fawzi Ahmad is a graduate of Stenberg College’s Cardiology Technology program and is enjoying his career in health care, a field he dreamed of working in since he was a small boy. Now 30, Fawzi administers stress test exams and pharmacological stress tests (a procedure where heart rates are monitored at rest and during major exertion to discover abnormal blood flow) at his full-time job at Total Cardiology in Calgary, the largest cardiac clinic in Canada.
Fawzi also picks up casual shifts at Foothills hospital. When someone is so comfortable and confident in their role, it can be tough to imagine their humble beginnings, but the college journey of Fawzi is a fascinating one that illustrates how determined students can conquer any obstacles.
“All I wanted was an open door. An opportunity and someone to give me the chance to enter it,” says Fawzi, of his desire to have a career. As a new immigrant living in Winnipeg, Mb, Fawzi worked in a factory during the day and spent his evenings practicing his English. Fawzi was living in Kassel, germany where he played second division soccer, a sport he trained hard to perfect in his home town of Akko, israel, where he played professionally.
In 2007, Fawzi moved to Canada after a major injury ended his professional soccer career. Fawzi was still on a waiting list for a college in Winnipeg the day he was accepted at Stenberg. he was excited but nervous. studying medicine is difficult enough, but learning about it in a language you’re unfamiliar with seemed nearly impossible. Fortunately, Fawzi found a way to cope.
“I used to stay every day after school to study more and to improve my English,” says Fawzi. “The first two months were hard for me to understand the academic language and the medical terms. So, I had to translate everything to my language (Arabic) and put it all back together to make sense and be ready for the next day.” Fawzi’s hard work was recognized by his peers, who eventually came to him for help with their studies in the hardest course of the program— electrocardiogram interpretation. “That was a really proud moment for me because I realized I was succeeding and leading, not just keeping up.”
Fawzi’s inspiring work ethic got the attention of the college and they nominated him for the National Association of Career Colleges student of the Year Award. Fawzi was also nominated to be that graduating year’s valedictorian.
“I think winning the valedictorian award and the student of the Year award were the proudest moments in my life,” says Fawzi. “I was in shock. Actually, I said in my speech that when I was nominated to be the valedictorian, I didn’t know what it was at first. I had to look it up.”
This was a huge honour for Fawzi to know definitively that his peers and instructors were proud of him.
“I remember when the adviser at Stenberg interviewed me for the program that first day I visited Stenberg; I saw the picture of the 2011 student of the Year award winner. it seemed like such a faroff and impossible dream that I didn’t even think about it because all I wanted to do was pass the first quiz.”
With this support of his family, the English lessons with his best friend Raegan Neville, and an unwavering confidence that hard work will produce success, Fawzi excelled at his college experience, getting a job in the field he loves. Fawzi believes that if students believe they can do it and don’t give up on their career dream when the going gets tough, they can enjoy the same successes he has found.
“our lives are full of hope and opportunities and when the door is open, you just have to enter it and don’t be scared or shy,” says Fawzi. “Always ask if you have a question. And try to listen first, then talk. give respect to others and smile and be modest. Modesty is like a treasure or a virtue, suspected only when it is advertised.” (Article originally found in Career Connections Magazine)