A Promise Kept, a Dream Achieved

For Sahra Mohamud ’19, her journey to become a nurse began in Kenya, with a promise.

That promise, a gift to a dying father who treasured education, inspired sacrifices from family members.

That promise, and Mohamud’s faithful work to uphold it, brought her to the American Midwest.

That promise, given by a devoted mother, kept Mohamud in nursing school after she gave birth to her son.

And one December afternoon last year, that promise brought her to Alverno’s Pitman Theatre, where she donned a mortarboard and a scholar’s black robe to earn her bachelor of science in nursing.

With her degree, Mohamud fulfilled that promise and proved to herself that she could do it.

“My family gave so much for education that it makes me value education even more. We all made it to the finish line,” says Mohamud. “I am so grateful and so happy to be a nurse.”


Mohamud’s father, Hassan Mohamud, was born in Somalia to a family of farmers. He moved to the capital city of Mogadishu and opened a pharmacy, learning the skills he needed along the way.

“He loved math and science,” Mohamud recalls. “He didn’t have a formal education. Yet for him, giving his kids a formal education was the most important thing.”

Mohamud, the second youngest of the family’s 13 children, was born in 1991, the same year Somalia’s government was overthrown, turning unrest into civil war. When she was two years old, her family immigrated to Kenya, joining other Somalis who sought to escape the fighting. In Kenya, she attended primary school — not a given for a girl, and not a given considering that primary school was neither compulsory nor free.

“People always asked my dad, why are you wasting money?” Mohamud explains. “But he didn’t care about riches.”

Hassan Mohamud passed away right before his daughter’s eighth grade graduation. First, however, he asked his wife, Fartun Omar, to promise that their children would always go to school. So Sahra Mohamud and her youngest brother enrolled in high school.

Meanwhile, their mother joined an older sibling in the United States. Two sisters living in Kenya took on the responsibility of caring for Mohamud and her brother.

After high school, the siblings joined their mother in the States. The family settled in Madison, and Mohamud earned her associate’s degree and got married. Then, she turned her sights to a bachelor’s degree. She chose Alverno’s nursing program, drawn to the small class sizes and emphasis on clinical skills.


Mohamud and her husband welcomed their son Mamadou in January 2019. Before his birth, she had considered taking a semester off school.

Mohamud’s husband and siblings, however, encouraged her to persevere. Her husband, whom she calls her “number one fan,” stayed up with her countless nights as she completed schoolwork. Her youngest brother took two months off from his work as a truck driver to come help with the new baby. A sister in Madison, already a nurse and the first in the family to earn a bachelor’s degree, held firm that Mohamud should finish.

Perhaps the biggest voice in Mohamud’s ear was her mother’s, recalling that long-ago promise.

“My mother moved in with me to take care of my son. She made sure I got up in the morning, and she packed my food,” Mohamud recalls. “She knows I worry about my son. Even on my drive to Alverno today, she called to tell me, ‘You know he’s with me. He’s fine. You go there and you concentrate on your education.’”

Mohamud received the opportunity to honor her mother at December’s Bestowing of the Kente ceremony, which precedes graduation. As she stood on stage and received the kente cloth from her mother, both of them wearing traditional Somali dress, she thanked her mother for helping her to the finish line.

“My mom always knew education was number one to my dad, and she always pushed us,” she says. “My mother gave me the last push I needed to graduate.”

Mohamud is especially proud that she graduated before her son’s first birthday.

“I wanted to prove to myself and also to my son that no matter how much people doubt you, you’ve still got to keep going,” she says. “My son is not going to remember that I was gone for a few months. Instead, he’s going to know that I fought for this. You have to keep fighting.”


For a long time, Mohamud doubted her abilities and potential as a nurse. “I always had this fear I was going to fail,” she recalls.

At Alverno, Mohamud quickly learned that she does have what it takes. In fact, she was hired before graduation as a psychiatric nurse at the University of Wisconsin hospital.

Helping her squash any remaining doubt was the Alverno nursing program’s emphasis on mastering clinical skills through hands-on practice.

“Whenever I go to clinical, I know this is what I need to do, and this is how I need to do it. I even explain it to my supervisor before I go to do it on my patient, so she knows what technique I’m going to do,” Mohamud says. “That’s what Alverno did. It built my confidence. It made me believe in myself.”

This article appears in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Alverno Magazine.

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