“. . . we knew this was an unbelievable opportunity [to attend Brimmer and May], but what we did not know is that it would change and shape our lives."
Alumni Amela Hadziahmetovic, Brimmer and May Class of 2000 Human Resources Manager, TD Garden.
Wheaton College, Class of 2004
At 12, I was the typical preadolescent girl who dabbled in fashion and makeup and who, admittedly, was obsessed with the New Kids on the Block. At 14, I was a war refugee. Somewhere in between those two states of being I found myself just old enough to endure a trip across the Balkan mountains in an attempt to escape the atrocities brought on by the so-called ethnic cleansing. The final destination was unknown and ultimately a manifestation of pure luck. The UN commander of the troops who freed my father from the concentration camp gave us a choice: Boston or Stockholm. A discussion was not held. Nobody misses an opportunity to come to America. We landed in Boston in 1994 and were greeted by a case worker from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) who drove us in a white van for what felt like hours. We finally stopped in the middle of a street with a big, beautiful house on one side and a five-story apartment building on the other. Immediately, my family and I thought the house was our new niche, but we followed the IRC case worker to the 5th floor of the building across the street. Jangling keys opened the door to an empty one bedroom apartment with four twin-size mattresses, wrapped in their original plastic, resting against plain white walls. Curious minds opened each door, and I noticed the tears build up in my parents’ eyes. My brother Kerim ’99 opened the fridge door and slowly read the labels wrapped around a two-liter bottle of Root Beer a loaf of Wonder Bread, and Smucker’s Grape Jelly. Our first exposure to American cuisine. Being drained from our travels, we placed the wrapped mattresses on the floor, closed our eyes, and woke up the next day to the beginning of our future.
My brother and I quickly immersed ourselves in the American culture, and a few months later we found ourselves at Brimmer and May. At the time, we knew this was an unbelievable opportunity, but what we did not know is that it would change and shape our lives. While establishing a sense of normalcy for their kids, my parents obtained and sent out Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas to my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. By 1996, most of my family had made it out of the war zone safely. The rest of my adolescence was spent in the Brimmer and May community, which went on to accept my cousins Selma Duhovic ’02 as a ninth grader and Emir Duhovic ’06 as a sixth grader.
One of my fondest memories is based on the long-standing Winterim program. In 10th grade, most of my classmates and I had signed up for a trip to London. As fate would have it, I was not a citizen just yet, and my “white” passport application was not processed on time, and I had to stay behind. I spent that whole week sulking over not being able to visit London with my classmates. Just when I became sure that nothing could lift my spirits, numerous postcards from London started to flood my mailbox. Each postcard was written by one of my classmates with the words “We wish you were here with us in London. We miss you!” spelled out in a bold, large, font word in the middle of the card. No wonder some of my best friends till this day are the ones I crossed paths with at Brimmer and May.