In the refugee camp in Afghanistan where she lived, Seema Gurbutwal would help her sister Adina, a doctor, care for the camp's patients. That experience of following her sister around fueled Seema's interest of becoming a doctor herself.
Five years later, Seema, now a fifth grader at Fairfax Villa Elementary, got one step closer to her dream. An Atlanta-based education software marketing firm awarded her a new computer and software for her contest entry about becoming a doctor when she grows up.
"I just wanted to be like her," said Seema of her older sister. "I just like helping people. I also picked this job because you can do this job anywhere."
Seema's entry was for a scholarship program called "Dare to Dream ... Expect to Succeed." Created by Brainstorm USA, the national contest receives 2,000 to 3,000 entries a year, asking students to define their career aspirations. They also ask for parents or a family member to write a letter explaining how they would support their child's dreams.
Seema's entry included a story about why she wanted to be a doctor, a letter from her physician sister Adina, drawings, and two poems about being a doctor that Seema downloaded from the Internet.
"I was surprised. I didn't think I'd win," said Seema.
Seema's award was one of several that Brainstorm USA distributes every quarter. The company also offers scholarships in addition to computers, and gives the host school a donation of software. Since Seema learned about the contest through Providence Elementary's summer school, that school will be the beneficiary of the software.
Seema won a Pentium 4 Premio computer with a monitor and speakers. She also received over 40 curriculum-based software programs, many of which cover Standards of Learning objectives.
"It was a pretty big accomplishment for her to do it," said Delores Athey of Brainstorm USA, adding that Seema completed the entry without the help of any teachers, which is how most entries are completed. "She did it on her own."
WHEN HER other sister, Hossai Younus of Fairfax, whom Seema is living with now, got the telephone call that her younger sister Seema had won, she was also surprised.
Seema has lived with Younus for three years and didn't know English when she came to the United States. Their parents are still in Afghanistan and Adina, her other sister, now lives in Texas.
Younus explained that Seema would have greater access to becoming a doctor if she is educated in the United States, because the country is stable, the infrastructure is better and there is less of a social stigma for a women to study medicine.
"When you don't have a peaceful situation, you can't study," Younus said.
Seema said she would use the computer for projects and homework. When she's not busy at school, she likes to play basketball. Her favorite subject is math.