One Cuyamaca College graduate received a degree in engineering and finished with a 4.0 grade point average at the top of her class, all while defying the odds.
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If you scanned the nearly 700 graduates at Thursday's 34th annual commencement ceremony at Cuyamaca College, you would have found a soft-spoken woman who does not fit the mold.
"When the lady told me that I'm the valedictorian, I said, 'What's a valedictorian?'" said Sahira Dawod.
Dawod came from Iraq with her American husband 11 years ago.
"At the beginning, I was so scared actually because everything is new for me, even English," she said.
But Dawod was not easily daunted. She got her civil engineering degree while supporting three young children and her husband, who has medical issues.
She also lost a brother during the Iraq War and a sister to brain cancer.
"Every day I was in school, I thought that it was too hard and I couldn't make it, but I did it," Dawod said during her valedictory address.
Her sister Dena Dawod said through tears, "I'm so proud of her. I'm really proud. I wish I can be like her."
During her speech, Dawod also said education is as important as the air people breathe.
Her success does not surprise her professors.
"What we call the American dream, and I think Sahira Dawod would be a great example of that," said Duncan McGehee, associate professor of engineering.
It is an example she is setting for her kids.
"I hope one day I sit there and I see my kids graduate here
that's my hope," said Dawod.
Dawod says she would like to get a job and then go for a master's degree.
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