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Strong academics, opportunities draw top student

February 17, 2010

She studies French and Chinese, gets jazzed about phonemes and exchange rates, and likes to teach children how to weave friendship bracelets. It’s an odd combination, but it’s all part of Naima Fatimi’s packed weekly schedule.

The ASU sophomore coordinates Talent Match, a program that pairs honors college students with fourth and fifth grade students to teach them a special skill or talent. About 27 students from St. Agnes Elementary arrive by bus each Tuesday afternoon at Barrett, the Honors College, for an hour and a half of lessons in sports, crafts and music.

It’s a way for the children to be introduced to a university environment, and receive one-on-one mentoring from ASU students. For Fatimi, it’s also fun.

“It gives me an excuse to act like a kid, to make friendship bracelets and tie-dye, and roll down hills with the kids,” she says. “But it’s really about helping them, giving them individual attention and showing them that college is a possibility.”

Fatimi teaches arts and crafts. Another student shares baking skills. Others teach soccer, piano, singing, acting, dancing and musical theater.

A graduate of Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Fatimi lived in five different states and several dozen cities growing up, the child of a mother from Boston and a father from Morocco. Luckily she always loved school, and she developed an inner motivation to succeed that continues to carry her forward.

She’s majoring in linguistics and economics, maintains a 3.97 GPA and hopes to teach language someday. While she loved a macroeconomics class with Professor John Hill, she “randomly” took a class in the Study of Language last year and discovered a passion.

“Linguistics is just amazing,” she says. “It’s science, but it’s studying your mind, how your brain processes language. The class challenged so many of my assumptions about what language is and what it does, and I realized how much native speakers know about their language without even knowing it.

“I love language. I’m going to go to Morocco for the summer this year to live with my aunt, who speaks French and Arabic. I’ll go to language school with a lot of international students. I’m nervous, but it should be an amazing experience.”

Last summer she took a study abroad trip to China with students and professors from Barrett, an experience that inspired her to study Chinese. Fatimi also works as a mentor for freshmen in the First-Year Residential Experience program, helping young students make the transition to college. In addition to Barrett, she is enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“I was attracted to ASU by the huge amount of programs, research and activities,” she says. “Academics are very important to me, so when I found out about the academic and social opportunities, I was sold.”