OneGoal Alumna Huda Ganatra gave a stirring speech for the 2022 Grad Night celebration event audience for OneGoal in Chicago. The following is a transcript of Huda’s remarks about her journey toward achieving her goals and personal happiness.
Hello everyone! My name is Huda Ganatra, OneGoal alumna and current junior at Depaul University majoring in Accounting and minoring in Data Science. Chicago is the only home I’ve ever known. I grew up in the Albany Park neighborhood on the northwest side. There is a saying about my neighborhood; “the world lives at 60625.” It’s an incredibly diverse area. As you stroll down Lawrence or Kimball Avenues, past the Korean barbecues, panaderias, and kebab shops, you’ll notice the signs everywhere that say “global roots, local heart.” You’ll find people from all around the world; people with different skin tones, faith practices, and backgrounds. Maybe you have seen the yard signs that say “hate has no home here”? That motto originated in my neighborhood!
This sense of community, of belonging, and embracing difference is really central to who I am as a person and what I value. My neighborhood reflects the best parts of those values.
I began my education by attending a private Islamic academy for girls, surrounded by students with backgrounds similar to mine. So it was difficult and embarrassing coming into public school; to be in this strange place full of strange people where almost no one looked like me.
It was a fish out of water moment, and not just because of the people. Even some of the most simple concepts taught in my classes were presented in unfamiliar ways. Algebra was my first class and after the teacher asked us to write out the four basic operations of mathematics. The look of panic on my face must have been visible to others around me. I was almost to the point of tears when a boy sitting next to me held up his paper for me to see and it said, “addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.” Ahh! Of course, I knew these concepts, but what on earth was an “operation?” Does she mean the board game Operation? I think back to this moment and it’s especially funny to me considering I’m majoring and working in accounting now.
This was an early lesson in asking for help. The boy who showed kindness in that moment was the first of many of my peers over the years who I looked to for support in moments of uncertainty and confusion.
By the time I joined OneGoal my junior year at Roosevelt, every decision in my life was made for me by an adult. I think there is an inherent mistrust of young people when it comes to their ability to make decisions for themselves. You can’t even walk down the hall in school without an adult questioning where you’re going and what you’re up to. But the OneGoal classroom environment was the first place where my agency to own my future was assumed from day one. Not only that, my Program Director, Kara Escalante, gave us the tools, support, and guidance to be confident in the choices we were making. All based on my intentions, identity, and values, and not on a prescribed path or outcome.
So when I decided I wanted to go to DePaul University, I turned to my Program Director to help me carve a path toward that goal. And it was not easy! My parents did not want me to take this path at first. Their philosophy was that my postsecondary education should be free, which meant community college or state school. And for some people, that is the absolute right path for them to take! But my mind was set. I knew it was one of the best schools for accounting, it was one train ride away, and it had the class sizes where I knew I could get the most from my education. But with the high costs of this pathway, this meant applying for countless scholarships, financial aid, and grants to make this dream into reality. A truly overwhelming and mind-boggling experience. I was bombarded with very long lists of opportunities and no way to easily decipher which scholarships I should be applying for and which ones were a waste of time. So Mrs. Escalante’s knowledge of scholarships that were tailored for people just like me was invaluable. I was amazed by the fact that people were willing to invest in me for just being me.
If you asked me two years ago where I want to be in 2025, I’m actually on the path to it. I just wrapped up an accounting internship and I’m heading into my senior year of college with a full-time job offer for next fall.
But if you ask me right now where I want to be in three years, the answer is I don’t know. But I do know that I will have a lot more opportunities available to me so that I don’t have to focus only on external markers of success like financial security and stability, and I can prioritize my internal happiness.
I’m excited that we are joined tonight by some class of 2022 Fellows. I was in your shoes not too long ago! My advice to each of you this year is to ask for help. There will be moments where you don’t always have control over your success—your circumstances and the barriers you encounter are not always favorable in your pursuit of success, but there are almost always people, opportunities, and experiences available to you to make your life a little better for yourself. You just have to be vulnerable enough to seek them out.
This is something I struggled with! And if you’re anything like me, you’re used to fending for yourself.
OneGoal helped me understand that we cannot and should not be expected to make this journey alone. You are as valuable to your school, your employer, and your program as they are to you, and making the most of that partnership is how we all succeed together.
It may take a few tries, and sometimes you might not get the help you asked for, but what helped me is realizing that I can either settle for the situation to stay the same, or I can actively work to make it better. And vocalizing my needs, relying on community, and embracing what makes me unique, are skills that I think have been instrumental to my growth.