A self-described “STEM gal,” Samira Ahmed loves science, technology, engineering and math. She plans on becoming a neurologist so she can help people overcome medical problems in the body’s control center.

“All parts of the body are important, but the most important is the brain,” Ahmed says. “Unlocking the secrets of the brain is very interesting to me.”

Ahmed, who graduates this month from Casco Bay High School in Portland, is a Somali immigrant who arrived in the United States when she was 7 years old. One of seven children, she was born in a refugee camp in Uganda, where her parents spent many years before coming to Portland.

Now 18, Ahmed has distinguished herself as a modest but highly motivated student, winning the prestigious Navigator Award for Excellence in Leadership from the Casco Bay faculty in January.

Ahmed was chosen because she always works hard, often stays late, pitches in to help teachers, tutors fellow students and challenges herself academically. She took Advanced Placement English as a junior to improve her writing skills, added AP biology to a full senior course load and did an in-depth senior project on stem cell research.

Ahmed also proved to be a school leader after two Casco Bay students reported that they were assaulted while waiting at a bus stop in late January. Jamie Hoffman, 20, of Portland has been charged with two counts of assault and one count of interfering with constitutional rights.


A few days later, Ahmed participated in a demonstration at Portland City Hall that drew about 1,500 people to protest President Trump’s order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

“That was a pretty scary time,” Ahmed recalls. “We weren’t sure what (Trump) was capable of and we were concerned about the changing political climate in Portland, which has been pretty supportive of immigrants.”

Four afternoons each week, Ahmed attends the local dugsi, a Somali religious school where she studies the Quran. She also helps out around the house and works four days a week in the kitchen at The Cedars retirement community in Portland.

Ahmed plans to attend the University of Southern Maine, then go on to medical school.

“I want to give back to the community that has given so much to me,” Ahmed says. “I wouldn’t be here today without the help of others.”

Read all 2017 graduates to watch profiles.

— By Kelley Bouchard

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.