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One in a million opportunity lands Hassan at MSU

Traveling over 8,500 miles to follow a dream only begins to hint at the amazing story of Minot State University freshman Ismail Hassan. Throughout his childhood in Kenya, Hassan never imagined that (a.) he would win the lottery or (b.) he would live in North Dakota. Ever.

Hassan grew up in Garissa, the capital city of Kenya's North Eastern Province. Although Garrisa is a large city, resources for certain clans can be scarce. Poverty, a shortage of clean and available water, political conflict and disease are not uncommon in this part of Africa. Education is a luxury many cannot afford. Yet, Hassan dared to dream.

"I always wanted to be a doctor to save lives and feel happy about it," he said.

Hassan credits his older brother, Mohamed, as the motivator in his pursuit of a career in medicine. Mohamed Hassan discovered the U.S. Diversity Immigration Visa program and convinced his brother to apply.

Affectionately known as the "Green Card Lottery," the program is congressionally mandated through the Immigration Act of 1990 and awards 55,000 immigrant visas via an annual lottery. Hassan's chance of being selected from all the applicants in Africa was two percent. Given those odds, he considered retiring his dream and training in economics. However, in 2008, he received good news about passing his rigorous high school exams, and even greater news in 2009 that he won the "Green Card Lottery." In 2010, he left for America. His friends and family had mixed emotions.

"They were all happy and sad. Happy for me to go to the land of opportunity and help myself, as well as them," he said. "Sad because we will miss each other and not be able to do all the activities we use to."

Hearing good things about MSU from friends, he chose Minot as his destination. Although his life here is very different from home, Hassan truly enjoys the culture and finds people to be supportive. He speaks four different languages, but finds American English more challenging than the British English learned in school. His reverence for learning is refreshing when he says he believes "Education can completely change a person's life."

He admits that biology was not his favorite subject, and acknowledges Christopher Keller, biology professor, as an influence in it becoming his best subject.

"Dr. Keller stays to help and explain things to me, even after hours. He is the reason for my "A" in Biology," he said. "I get good guidance and counseling from people who are all nice and kind, they always want to help and see me succeed."