Phoenix, AZ – Sirrene Ayyad is a single mother with a 4-year old son, and a small business owner, who grew up in Chicago, and she’s now attending college in Arizona, pursuing her dream job of becoming a dentist.
Sirrene explains, “I’ve always wanted to be a dentist, but when I was in school I took speech therapy and my family was told that I would never be smart enough to get a good education or hold a professional job, and that I would be limited to an entry level job. And then, a few years ago I was inspired by a pastor and a dentist that I was working for at the time. That dentist encouraged me to pursue my dreams and he said that ‘anyone can do it.’ So, I think that just having that guidance and those people encouraging me was really rewarding. I’m really grateful to have had those people in my life with such a message – it just takes some hard work to do what you want to do, but most importantly anyone can do it, if you just work hard.”
Sirrene, age 29, moved from Chicago to California at age 19, lived there for six years, and then moved to the Phoenix area. She’s currently attending Estrella Mountain Community College taking prerequisite classes for dental school, and then she plans to transfer to Northern Arizona University to earn a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts Degree, and then it’s on to dental school.
Sirrene attended college in her early twenties, but she says it’s so much different now, “The main thing is that back in my early twenties in college I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I really didn’t have a Major and I didn’t take it as seriously as I am now. Back then I was still trying to figure who I was and what I wanted to do, and if I could even do school. Now versus then, I know exactly what I want to do, and also why I want to do it, which is making all the difference in the world. I’m so excited because right now I have a 3.9 Grade Point Average, and my whole entire life I did not do well in school, but all of the hard work is paying off.”
Meanwhile, Sirrene is balancing school, work, and motherhood, “With my son, I pick him up in the afternoons and we have dinner together and then we read books together for about 30 minutes before bed. And, we’ll work on some things that he needs to work on, such as his name and other words that he needs to know to help him get to kindergarten next year. I want him to know that he can do whatever it is he wants to do in life. I also want to be a testimony to my son that some people learn differently, but that we can all call get a good education if we put our minds to it.”
Beyond the books and family, Sirrene is also a small business owner, “I was working at a dental office full-time back in 2015 – and I’ve always wanted to have my own business and I really like cleaning. So, I came up with the idea of providing cleaning services for dental practices and specializing in medical offices. Given my experience working in dental offices, I know to look for blood spatter and things like that. Through my church, I was able to get my first client, and I now I’ve also expanded out to two other clients, so I have three clients in total.”
In order to keep up with her busy schedule, Sirrene leads a very structured life, “Being organized and having good time management skills is really helping to balance motherhood with work and school. I write down what I have to get done in a daily planner and also planning and managing my time throughout the semester – I have this little Microsoft sheet with tables on it detailing when I’m going to study, how I’m going to study, how many hours I’m going to study, which days I’m in class, and what classes need more attention.”
Sirrene is among the hundreds of high potential students from low income circumstances who have earned scholarships from College Success Arizona. Sirrene’s scholarship, which provides up to two-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses, is funded through Alliance Bank. Students such as Sirrene also receive specialized mentoring services provided by a team of talented “Success Advisers.” Sirrene’s adviser is Matt Sotelo:
“Matt has been amazing! He has helped me by sending out information about other scholarships, and I actually got 15-hundred dollars from two other scholarships this semester, aside from College Success Arizona. Matt is always checking in with us and letting us know what’s going on with the program and on campus, which has been awesome to connect with the programs available on campus and also to be able to network with other people.”
Sirrene has some advice for middle and high school students considering their own college options and opportunities, “You always have to start somewhere, but don’t give up on what you want to do, and figure out what your ‘why’ is. Why are you here for school? Knowing why you’re attending college will help to fuel your passion. And, in today’s society you’ll get so much further with an education versus not having one. Also, I feel that I’m a lot smarter since I’ve been in college and just being able to learn. So, I just want to encourage students to adopt that learning posture and learn something new, and just continue to learn and grow within yourself, because college can help you find out who you are, and what you have inside of you.”
Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students just like Sirrene, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income backgrounds, your tax-deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on top of this page.