ahmat djoumaMohawk Valley Community College public policy major Ahmat Adam Djouma has been selected as a DREAM Scholar by the Achieving the Dream Network and will present to the 2,300 attendees at ATD’s annual conference, DREAM, Feb. 19-22 in Long Beach, Ca. He is one of eight students selected by the ATD Network to receive this honor.

Djouma was born blind. He and his family are originally from Sudan, but violent conflict there forced them to flee to Chad, where they lived in a refugee camp. The schooling there was Djouma’s first opportunity to learn, and he had to memorize the lessons because the school did not provide accommodations and was unable to teach him to read or write. Throughout this experience he vowed to not live by the low expectations set before him because of his disability. He says, “low expectations create obstacles for people with disabilities.” In 2009, Djouma and his family immigrated to the United States, where he had to learn braille and English simultaneously. During his senior year at Thomas R. Proctor High School in Utica, Djouma participated in the MVCC College Connection program, where he earned college credit as a part-time college student, which helped him transition to college. In 2017, he graduated in the top 10 percent of his class at Proctor with a Regent’s diploma.

In his classes at MVCC, Djouma uses many styles of assistive technology to take notes, including his iPad, a braille note-taker, digital recorders, and a computer with JAWS (screen-reading software for blind and visually impaired people) that speaks information to him. He uses earbuds or a headset to not interrupt other students during class. He also uses a cell phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, and all of the social technology used by others. Djouma’s expectations for himself are high and he expects his instructors to have the same level of expectations for him.

Djouma is an advocate for accessibility in education and believes that “education is the key that unlocks the door to success.” He is currently on the NYSED Advisory Council for Students with Disabilities in Higher Education, representing students with disabilities. He aspires to a career in law or government.

DREAM Scholars are nominated by their institutions, then submit applications asking them to reflect on their college journeys and undergo a rigorous selection process. During DREAM, the students talk with experts, share their educational experiences, and attend sessions on improving student success, institutional governance, teaching and learning, administration, and more. Their individual presentations allow them to share what they have learned about Network colleges’ work to improve students’ success and completion and close achievement gaps for historically underserved student populations.

Achieving the Dream (ATD) leads a growing network of more than 220 community colleges committed to helping their students, particularly low-income students and students of color, achieve their goals for academic success, personal growth, and economic opportunity. ATD is making progress in closing academic achievement gaps and accelerating student success through a unique change process that builds each college’s institutional capacities in seven essential areas. ATD, along with nearly 75 experienced coaches and advisors, works closely with Network colleges in 41 states and the District of Columbia to reach more than 4 million community college students.