It has always been important for Shahida Ismail to do well in school because she knows her four younger sisters and two younger brothers are looking up to her. She helps them with there homework and tells them to pay attention in class.
“I tell them the most important part of life is education, because without that, you can’t do anything in life,” Ismail said.
She graduated at the top of her class on Thursday, and is proud of the work she did at Independence High School. She plans to start online courses and eventually become a nurse or a doctor.
Ismail is a Lodi native and her parents immigrated from Pakistan. She encourages her siblings to work hard because she has seen her father work seasonal jobs because he never received education in Pakistan.
“I tell my brothers, I don’t want them to be like that. They need to pay attention in class, and if they have questions, I tell them to ask the teacher or me,” she said.
Ismail attended Lodi Middle School, and has always excelled at math. She researched independent study high schools, because girls in her culture usually do not attend traditional high schools.
“Very rarely do Pakistani girls go to regular school,” she said. “Some of them drop out after middle school, but most of them do homeschooling.”
Ismail started at Connecting Waters, a charter school, because she didn’t have transportation to Independence. She was frustrated that her charter school classmates slacked off on their school work, so at the end of 10th grade, a family member agreed to drive her to Independence or she took the bus.
At first she missed her old teacher and friends, but then she started to excel at her new school. She is glad she did independent study, as opposed to attending a traditional high school.
“I had my own options. I worked faster and did everything at my own pace,” she said.
Ismail’s main teacher was Cathy Campbell. Ismail said she was always more than a teacher because they could talk about anything and are friends.
“My favorite part was always just going to school and learning,” Ismail said.
Campbell called Ismail a “super student,” who would always read and complete extra chapters in her textbook.
“She is just one of those students that excels in everything she does. Even though she says she might not like a subject, she excels in it,” Campbell said.
In her free time, Ismail likes to research careers online and learn about new subjects. She plans to stay in Lodi and pursue a medical career. She said her parents are very proud that she has excelled at school and that she remained focused.