Ajshe Sulejmani – She Found Her Power at PCCC
Spotlight on the Class of 2019
“To me, education is a way out. It opens doors and gives power,” declares Ajshe Sulejmani, an outstanding student in the Class of 2019.
A Liberal Arts/Humanities major, Ajshe maintains a 3.9 GPA and is a member of both the Honors Program and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK). She has served this past year on the PTK Executive Board as Vice President of Fellowship where her duties included leading the College Project, an initiative to encourage student retention and cultivate a relationship between administration and the student body. For her accomplishments in that role, Ajshe recently received, from the PTK national organization, a regional Distinguished Chapter Officer award.
With plans to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program and major in English, Ajshe has been awarded a full scholarship to Bard College, a highly respected liberal arts college in upstate New York, and is also accepted at Fordham University.
A passionate advocate for writing, Ajshe plans to pursue a career as a writer and editor, and work to gain more recognition for writers. “Coming to PCCC helped me realize my power,” she says.
By contrast, Ajshe arrived at PCCC in September 2017, feeling defeated. The honors graduate of Wayne Valley High School had been accepted at Drew University, her preferred choice, on a full scholarship and also at Rutgers-Newark, but family circumstances prevented her from attending either university.
“I wasn’t sad about attending a community college,” she said. “Just disappointed that I couldn’t go to a college I really wanted to attend.”
Feeling beaten down, Ajshe lacked interest in college. Then she enrolled in a history class taught by Professor Petar Drakulich. “Professor Drakulich revived my motivation and became a great figure in my life,” she said.
Encouraged by her advisor, Ajshe joined the Honors Program. “That really opened things up for me,” she said. Attending honors classes and activities at the Main Campus excited her. “It was like a new world,” said Ajshe. “There were more people, more activities, and so much encouragement to get involved.”
Soon PCCC became her second family; one that valued and supported her academic achievement. “My family is not particularly academic,” said Ajshe, the youngest of three siblings and only daughter.
“They are very traditional and believe a daughter should be a good girl and get married as soon as possible. They don’t really understand my dreams.”
Growing up, Ajshe found liberation through writing, music and song. As a middle-school student she dreamed of being a famous pop star and wrote her own songs. She also wrote and published fan fiction online about the pop music boy band One Direction. “I had over 3,000 followers,” she said, joking about what she called a “hormonal-driven” genre.
In her high school marching band, where she played marimba, Ajshe encountered a culture of social cliques. “That was uncomfortable for me,” she said, “But I realized uncomfortable situations help me to grow.” That proved true when Ajshe was elected front ensemble captain in her senior year. “I was convinced that no matter what opportunity came my way, I should always try to do my best,” she said.
An author of poems, essays, and stories, once Ajshe decided writing would be her path, she became a vigorous advocate of it. “I believe writing is undervalued today, in schools and in general,” she says. “I would like to see more progress and more opportunities for English majors.”
Last month, she was one of the six PCCC Honors Program students invited to the 2019 Judith K Winn. Honors Conference, Ajshe presented her paper “The Denigration of Creativity in Writing,” arguing that the low value placed on writing in schools and in society affects how writing is taught, leaving many students with weak skills.
“Writing is so important,” Ajshe affirms. “No matter what field you’re in, you need to express your ideas to others. If you know how to write, you know how to reach people.”
She tutors ESL students at her local library, considers the possibility of teaching English abroad someday, and is also interested in working as a writer or editor at a magazine after she receives her bachelor’s degree.
Though sad about leaving PCCC, Ajshe believes she will always be connected to the people she met here. “They gave me the support and encouragement to follow my own path,” she said. “I’m nervous about what comes next, but I know that in time, I will adapt and not be scared any more.”