When Abdi Mohamoud moves to Washington, D.C., this fall to attend Howard University, he will be the first in his family to attend college.
The biggest challenge for the Tigard High School graduate will be paying for four years at one of the top-ranked Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country. The university counts Vice President Kamala Harris and the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as alumni.
With that in mind, Ben Bowman, a member of the Tigard-Tualatin School Board, and a group of supporters are trying to ensure that Mohamoud — who was president of the Tigard chapter of the Tigard-Tualatin Student Union and the Black Student Union at Tigard High School prior to graduating earlier this month — doesn't have to worry about where the money will come from.
Not only do Bowmen and other backers hope to help pay for Mohamoud's college education, they also want to make sure he and his family are taken care of.
Mohamoud's father died of COVID-19 earlier this year. Mohamoud and all seven of his siblings got sick as well.
"(The) most important thing I learned from my father would probably be taking care of your community, whether it's here in the United States or in Africa," said Mohamoud, adding that his father taught him to "remember that there will always be people less fortunate than you, so always take care of your community."
Having known Mohamoud for three years, Bowman said he has found him to be one of the most generous people he's ever met.
Mohamoud, who was both a refugee in Somalia and Kenya before moving to the United States, attended Metzger Elementary and Fowler Middle schools.
"He's so giving of himself, of his time. (He) always wants to check in on other people. He's just one of those people whose first instinct is always to make sure everyone else is OK, even if he's the one who's been going through challenging times," said Bowman. "I also see him as just having this incredible leadership potential."
To that end, Bowman and members of the group trying to help out Mohamoud, including Oregon House District 26 Rep. Courtney Neron and Tigard Mayor Jason Snider, are trying to make sure Mohamoud's dream of attending Howard becomes a reality.
"His degree from Howard — all their estimated total cost — it's almost $200,000," said Bowman. "So far, we've raised about $20,000, which is great."
And while Mohamoud has an estimated $100,000 in scholarships to help close that gap, Bowman said two funds have been set up to help him out: a GoFundMe account (gofundme.com/f/help-abdi-attend-howard-university) and a 529 College Savings Plan so that Mohamoud can concentrate on school and not have to worry about financial obligations.
What Bowman said has impressed him about Mohamoud, in addition to his compassion, are his accomplishments while attending Tigard High School. Those include taking on the burden of being a visible Black student leader, something that's "not easy to do in the political climate that we're in right now," said Bowman.
Mohamoud helped organize the June 11, 2020, student March for Black Lives, which began at Tualatin High School and traveled to Tigard High School.
A student athlete during his time in school, Mohamoud is also a member of the Tigard Public Safety Advisory Board, a group that reviews the Tigard Police Department's public safety practices.
Mohamoud said he's pleased with all the support he's been receiving and grateful to Bowman. The fundraising efforts have relieved some of the stress from a very challenging year and an upcoming transition to a new phase of his life.
"Ben has been the best," he said. "He has been my mentor in all of this and my number-one support. I don't know where I would be without him."
Bowman, who said the group has received 100 donations so far, hopes to have funds collected by mid-August.
"This is a way for the community to give back to a student who has given much of himself in service over the last four years, and particularly over the last two years," he said.
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