Fresno City College graduate credits professors and music in overcoming homelessness and abuse

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Nadia Al-Said has played the guitar since the age of 12.

As a young child, she faced discrimination since she is half Palestinian, at the same Al-Said and her mother moved around trying to escape her abusive father.

After high school, she left home to attend U.C. Santa Cruz, but returned to Fresno a year later, uncertain of where or when she would go back to school.

"I didn't have that support system. I didn't have a place to live at the time and lived out of my car several times. I was moving from place to place because I either had unsafe roommates, or it was just an unsafe neighborhood," she said.

The Fresno native first enrolled at Fresno City College in 2012.

Al-Said struggled financially and academically. After working a series of part-time jobs, she returned in 2017.

Several of her instructors noticed she had a talent and encouraged her to pursue music.

"And now she realizes you just can't be talented, but you also have to be a hard worker. And with the two packages, she will find success. It has happened here, and it will continue to happen," said Dr. Kevin Cooper, Fresno City College Instructor.

Encouragement got Al-Said the dean's medallion from Fine, Performing and Communication Arts last week.

During that same year she had her car broken into and lost a backpack and an overnight bag.

The guitar she uses was donated to her after her the one she used for many years was damaged a few months ago.

"I think it wasn't until more recently in this last year where I was really going through a dark time. And I felt alone and I thought how I am going to overcome these challenges and these obstacles," said Al-Said.

The 26-year-old will graduate with a degree in music and has been accepted to C.S.U. Dominguez Hills into their folkloric guitar program.

She hopes to return to the Central Valley someday to teach music.

Al-Said wants to help students the way she has been helped during her time at Fresno City College.

"I can't imagine myself going on with life and not giving that back in some way," she said.
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