Changing course: Rashwan sets sights on school in Saudi Arabia

Ryan Donovan

Contributing Writer

ryan donovan
Photo courtesy of David McMahon.

Springfield College calls for students to reach out and serve the community through spirit, mind, and body. In 2013, Springfield College gained a great leader in the community, Mohammed Rashwan. Ever since his acceptance into the Emergency Medical Services Management (EMSM) program, Rashwan has found his true calling in serving the community. His drive to help others and inspire is second to none. Whether that is pursuing his own interests or working in the classroom, Rashwan always brings a deep dedication to whatever needs to be accomplished.

Born in Medina, Saudi Arabia, the 24-year-old Rashwan lived in California and Missouri, before ending up at Springfield College. The multiple departures from one side of the country to the next makes Rashwan feel that he has immersed himself in America.

“Sometimes I feel like I know about America more than most of the Americans because I have lived in three very different states,” Rashwan said.

One thing that many people may not know about Rashwan is that he is a rapper. He may only do it as a hobby, but his ability to drop a few bars helped him and a friend place third in a talent show at his previous college in Missouri. On stage he raps in his native tongue, Arabic, while his friend, rapping in English, trades off a few verses. Rashwan has an unorthodox approach, rapping extremely fast, shooting off Arabic word after word. His style closely resembles former rapper Twista because of his ability to spit words at an impressive rate. He attributes his high-energy style to the Midwest, when he was staying in Missouri at the time.

“I rap very fast because I was in Joplin, Missouri and that is in the Midwest, so I adopted their style,” Rashwan said.

In his home in Saudi Arabia, Rashwan lives with his mother and father, along with five siblings. Rashwan always shows a gleaming smile when he talks about his family, which he only sees about one time a year since he arrived in the States. Although he loves the relationships that he has formed in the United States, he will be happy to go home and reconnect with the strong bonds he has with family and friends in Medina at the end of the school year.

“The relationships in Medina are deeper than they are here. I miss the good social connections,” Rashwan said. “Everybody knows everybody. There it is a very social society, while here it is an individual society. I definitely like it when it is more social.”

Rashwan’s laidback personality and fiery demeanor make him one of the more approachable and easygoing students on campus. His personality can be traced back to his culture and home city, Medina. He grew up in a sociable community and when he is greeted by dozens of students and faculty as he walks along the campus, it is obvious that his community has rubbed off on him.

Like many previous and current Saudi Arabian students, Rashwan applied for the EMSM program at Springfield College. However, after getting a feel for what his future would be like in this program he had other ideas for what he wants to do.

Rashwan now has his sights on a far greater task, opening a school in Saudi Arabia. EMSM and education may not seem like similar paths, but it does involve something that is engraved in his persona: helping others.

“No [I do not plan on staying in the EMS career path]. My ultimate dream is to open up my own school. I want to be involved more with education,” Rashwan said. “My dream now is to educate people, especially younger kids.”

One person who helped push Rashwan towards his destined field was Springfield College’s International Center Director, Deb Alm. Alm helped Rashwan secure an internship at the Academy Hill School in Springfield. He spent his Humanics in Action Day there, and that sparked his interest in how schools are run. Humanics in Action Day is a day where Springfield College students and faculty give back and serve the community. Rashwan was assigned to the Academy Hill School, and from there an idea sparked in his mind. Alm has worked with Rashwan since to help him pursue his dreams, and open and own his own school.

“Rashwan requested an internship in business to learn more about how this works,” said Alm. “He wants to teach or lead education that makes a difference in the lives of children in Saudi Arabia, so he goes after the knowledge he needs.”

Rashwan became extremely passionate with the school system and this led his curious nature to figure out how he could better utilize his skills in influencing kids in the classroom. Alm has seen these characteristics from Rashwan, which is why she thinks he could excel at opening his own school.

“Mohammed is curious about the world and is passionate about justice. These may not be traditional talents,” Alm said. “But I believe they are the foundation of his desire to teach and establish schools for children.”

One thing that is evident when discussing Rashwan’s future is that he truly wants to make a difference in the world. He said helping others was a factor in majoring in EMSM at Springfield College because he would have the opportunity to save people’s lives. He has seen too many tragedies in the Middle East and now thinks it is his time to make a change and be the difference.

“My job, as a person, and the job I actually took was a paramedic. My job is to save people’s lives,” Rashwan said. “That is what gives me happiness, saving people’s lives. When I see people killing each other every single day it is frustrating.”

It is easy to understand that Rashwan gets this desire to help others from his belief in Islam. It is something he has been practicing since he was little from his parents, especially his mother because she is a firm believer in the religion. To him, Islam preaches peace and love where all people live in harmony and unity together.

Being a Muslim, one is required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca if you are able to. Rashwan was lucky enough to go on his pilgrimage before coming to the United States in 2010. He was in complete awe when he made it and saw all the other different Muslims on the same trek with him, but at that time, they were all equal.

“When you go there, as you see in pictures, everyone wears the same clothes. Everyone goes to the same place and this shows unity,” Rashwan said. “It shows that we are all equal. You will see the white Muslims, the black Muslims, and the brown Muslims. Whatever color it is, nobody is higher than another. It shows unity of humanity.”

His devotion to Islam is an overlaying factor in why he has a particular skill set that will allow him to be a successful teacher. His drive and passion for helping others has no boundaries and he will go that extra mile just so he can make a positive difference in someone’s life. He knows that opening up a school is a perfect way to shape the minds of the future generations.

“I want to do something to change the world, if not the world my country, and if not my country my hometown,” Rashwan said. “And I am only one person. After thinking for so much how can I have the biggest positive change in people’s lives, if I can raise a generation, a whole generation, the idea that was the most doable was to open a school.”

Rashwan will be graduating in May and returning back to Medina for the time being, until he figures out how to get the ball rolling on opening a school. Nearly three years ago, Rashwan walked on campus past the Naismith statue for the first time and now he will leave embodying everything Springfield College stands for in serving the community. The road has been long and certainly not narrow, but he now knows what he is most passionate about and plans to reach his goals and positively influence future generations.

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