The University of Georgia
Yonis, Yasmin

UGA's Amazing Students

Yasmin Yonis

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December 13, 2010

When she was three years old, Yasmin Yonis and her family came to Atlanta as refugees from the civil war in Somalia. This experience has shaped her life in such a way that she plans to take all the experiences and opportunities she has had in the U.S. to make the world better for others who are suffering or disadvantaged. She works as opinions editor of the Red and Black student newspaper, and she has studied in Washington, D.C. She is passionate about her Islamic faith and feminism, and she works to teach others about human rights. Next year, she will graduate from UGA with degrees in journalism and international affairs. After that, she plans to continue her studies by pursuing graduate degrees in law and public policy. Eventually, she wants to work with communities affected by poverty, violence and instability in the United States and African nations. She hopes to make a difference in the lives of the people in her homeland who continue to be affected by war and famines.

Expected graduation:

Spring 2011

Degree objective:

A.B.J. in journalism and B.A. in international affairs

University highlights, achievements and awards:

As an Honors student, I have received support and opportunities that have helped me succeed at UGA. I am one of ten students in the nation selected as an UCPPIA Law Fellow at UC Berkeley's Junior Summer Institute where I will study public policy, economics and law to prepare for graduate school. I will also be studying the effects of  globalization on businesses and politics of development in South Africa this summer before the summer institute.  I was nominated for the Truman Scholarship in the fall, a prestigious national scholarship for students pursuing a career in public service. I was an inaugural Carl Vinson Institute of Government Fellow conducting research in the International Center for the creation of training programs for the economic, social and civic empowerment of African women.I created a mentoring program at Gaines Elementary School where 5th grade girls are paired with UGA students to address the high drop-out rate in Athens-Clarke County. As an Honors in Washington Scholar in the summer of 2009, I lived on Capitol Hill and interned at Voice of America – English to Africa where I assisted with the production of television and radio news shows for the continent. I worked as a resettlement intern for the International Rescue Committee resettling refugees in Atlanta from countries such as Burma, Afghanistan, Iraq and Thailand. This was the same organization that resettled my family in the United States after we fled a civil war in Somalia. I was selected as a Roosevelt Scholar by the Honors Program where I wrote a policy proposal urging the United States to support the increased use of solar cookers in African refugee camps. This policy was intended to help reduce gender-based violence against women and girls who are raped or killed when they walk miles away from the safety of their refugee camp for wood. I presented my research at the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities’ annual symposium.I have served as the Political Action Committee chair my sophomore year and on the Freshmen Advisory Board for the Black Affairs Council creating programming for the academic and political needs of the student body. I also assist the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Honors Program with recruitment. I have made the Dean’s List every semester, and I was honored for being in the top 5 percent of my college during the 2008 Honors Day. I have received the Honors International Scholarship, AT&T Foundation Scholarship, Paul Ashley Simon Scholarship, Frank Hawkins Scholarship and Eugene Memorial Scholarship, along with the HOPE Scholarship and other honors, which have allowed me to fully fund my undergraduate degrees.  When I graduate next year, I will become the first female in my family’s history to graduate from college.

Hometown:

Lawrenceville, Georgia

High School:

Berkmar High School

Current Employment:

I am the opinions editor for the Red and Black, a student-run independent newspaper that has been honored as one of the best college newspapers in the nation. I work with students, faculty, alumni and other community members to publish columns on issues that are important to them. I also publish letters from readers and a political cartoon every day. I work hard to make sure we tackle issues the university administration and students need to address. Recently, I wrote an editorial challenging the passing of Georgia’s House Bill 615 that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses while publishing columns and letters from students on both sides of the issue.

Family Ties to UGA:

My brother attends UGA.

I chose to attend UGA because...

...it was the best school for me and my brother attended UGA. It turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. I attend one of the best journalism schools in the nation, and I have the opportunity to take classes from renowned experts in the School of Public and International Affairs. As an Honors student, I have the best of both worlds as I have the benefits of a small, tight-knit Honors college and a large, research university. The HOPE scholarship made attending incredibly affordable, and Athens is the perfect college town.

My favorite things to do on campus are...

...meeting new people and attending the many programs held by student organizations. There is always something to do and someone new to meet.

When I have free time, I like...

...to call up my friends for a coffee break downtown in the evening. I love getting a cappuccino from Café Royale near the Arch with friends and enjoying it outside. An hour of coffee, fresh air and laughter with friends makes the perfect break from my hectic schedule.

The craziest thing I've done is...

My friends and I watched the Presidential election results in Memorial Hall, a building that used to host white-only dances and segregated restrooms, as the nation elected its first African-American president. We then celebrated in the streets of downtown Athens with hundreds of people screaming and jumping for joy. A random girl was hugging and kissing me, I was high-fiving people I didn’t know, and I had the biggest smile on my face. We didn’t go to sleep until almost dawn. It was the perfect night.

My favorite place to study is...

...in the law library annex. It is a quiet building with a glass wall overlooking the beautiful North campus fountain and field. It feels like productivity particles ooze from the walls. I usually take my laptop and books there until they close at 2 a.m. most nights. It is a constant reminder of my dreams of attending law school. I am sure the library will be my second home wherever I attend law school.

My favorite professor is...

...Conrad Fink. He is just Fink to all of his students. He is the most amazing teacher I have ever met. His more than 50 years of experience in journalism, his humor, his ability to engage students and his open door policy make him unlike any other professor at UGA. He makes his students care about journalism and constantly work harder to reach the high standards he demands. Though his tough editing with his infamous red pen can be intimidating, I always run back for more. When I walk into his class every day, he reinforces my belief that I made the right choice by attending UGA. He has made me work harder than any other professor, and I have come out of all his classes a better writer and journalist. Because of him, I am better prepared to face the world that awaits me after graduation. After a semester of his invaluable instruction in the art of opinion writing, I became the Opinions Editor for the Red and Black. He has served as my mentor in everything journalism, and I am grateful to him. UGA, Grady and I are all lucky to have him.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...

...Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. I strive to live every day of my life with the trust, honesty, compassion, fairness and love he had in his life. As a Muslim-American in a post-9/11 world, I work to dispel misconceptions about my faith. I would love to talk to him about how to combat the many injustices around the world and to become a better person. The way Muhammad lived his life, along with the teachings of the Quran, are the reasons I am dedicating myself to a life of public service as a human rights lawyer. I am a feminist because of his life-long campaign for women’s rights. He is my role model for how I want to live my life.

If I knew I could not fail, I would...

...stop all the human rights violations around the world. Everyone has the right to a safe home, clean water, food, and education. They also have the right to live their lives without oppressions such as forced marriages, slavery and violence. I would target females in my campaign for human rights. Women complete two-thirds of the world’s work, earn only 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property, according to Oxfam. Approximately 1.3 billion people live in absolute poverty—on less than $1 a day—and 70 percent of them are women. Women and their children also comprise almost 80 percent of the world’s approximately 15 million refugees and 26 million internally displaced persons across the world today. Research has been shown that in developing countries a girl will reinvest 90 percent of her income in her family but only two cents out of every development dollar goes to girls in these countries. Even though many of these problems may not be eradicated in my lifetime, I still intend to make changes necessary for future generations to prosper.

After graduation, I plan to...

...stop all the human rights violations around the world. Everyone has the right to a safe home, clean water, food, and education. They also have the right to live their lives without oppressions such as forced marriages, slavery and violence. I would target females in my campaign for human rights. Women complete two-thirds of the world’s work, earn only 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property, according to Oxfam. Approximately 1.3 billion people live in absolute poverty—on less than $1 a day—and 70 percent of them are women. Women and their children also comprise almost 80 percent of the world’s approximately 15 million refugees and 26 million internally displaced persons across the world today. Research has been shown that in developing countries a girl will reinvest 90 percent of her income in her family but only two cents out of every development dollar goes to girls in these countries. Even though many of these problems may not be eradicated in my lifetime, I still intend to make changes necessary for future generations to prosper.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...

When I think of my UGA experience I don’t think of just one experience. I will remember: my first college class; joining the Black Affairs Council; holding my first protest; becoming an Honors student; freshmen year antics with friends that became family; all-night study sessions in the MLC with boxes of pizza, cans of energy drinks and numerous Facebook breaks; facing all my challenges head on; numerous papers, football games and downtown dinner dates; Dawgs After Dark; research; coffee breaks; President Obama waving at me during my summer in Washington D.C. and all the amazing people who have helped me become who I am today.