Last Word

A limitless future

My parents immigrated to the United States in the midst of a military coup. They left a comfortable life, their sense of community and every other piece of what they called “home” to start over in the States.

My mom and dad moved to America from the East African country of Ethiopia, and I always was reminded of the privileges that exist here that were absent in their native country.

With determination and a will to succeed, they were able to rebuild themselves from the ground up. They had to assimilate into a culture that was foreign to them, learn a whole new language and completely change their way of life.

“Our family is the definition of the American dream ... because we were awarded an opportunity to define our own narrative.”


My parents went from a life of being catered to by housekeepers to my dad working nights and my mom working days. In between these two shifts my grandmother would play babysitter and watch my brother and me. This cycle — though it was challenging at times — was the first place I learned the value of integrity.

Although I grew up in the States, my parents stressed that our Ethiopian culture should always have a place in our home. They taught me Amharic, their native tongue, along with English.

They “kept the culture alive” by celebrating all major Ethiopian holidays. They ensured our traditional dishes, like injera, were always stocked in our home, and my love of coffee is a direct result of belonging to the country that invented it. The art that is my ethnic identity was embedded into every piece of my character because of them.

It was instilled in me that my education was one of the defining aspects of who I would grow up to be, and that it was my responsibility to make the most of it.

Attending a renowned institution, such as the University of Cincinnati, has been an incredible experience. This opportunity is appreciated even further by being a first-generation college student, born of immigrant parents.

Our family is the definition of the American dream — not because we fit a mold of how immigrants should be, but because we were awarded an opportunity to define our own narrative. My mom and dad were hard-working in every aspect of their lives, both in their work ethic and their determination to not let go of their past and heritage. Their self-determination coupled with their passion to utilize every opportunity brought their way often inspired me as a child and is one of the main reasons why I became who I am.

Fast forward to today, I am a mix of several identities: Black, Ethiopian, American, first-generation, leader and of course, Bearcat.

I am blessed to be a student at a university that is dedicated to limiting tuition costs so that I, as well as my fellow Bearcats, can continue receiving an education that will make our futures limitless.


Sinna Habteselassie is the first female African -American student body president and has been an outspoken supporter of UC’s decision not to raise tuition yet again this year. UC’s $11,000 in-state tuition has not increased since the 2014–15 school year.

Read the complete profile of Sinna Habteselassie


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