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St. Kate’s student earns $15,000 for “Hidden Pearls”

Fatuma Mohamed ’15 with Father John Forliti, St. Kate’s chaplain.
Fatuma Mohamed ’15 with Father John Forliti, St. Kate’s chaplain.
Still image from Minnesota Idea Open video.

Fatuma Mohamed ’15 is on a mission. This summer, she and her "Sunnah Sisters" will introduce Minnesotans to “church hopping” and Pink Hijab week, among other things.

Mohamed, who is majoring in public health and business (marketing/management) at St. Catherine University and is the president of Sunnah Sisters — a group of young Muslim women in Minneapolis — is one of the three winners of the recent Minnesota Idea Open­ Challenge III: Working Together Across Cultures and Faiths.

More than 600 people submitted suggestions to the online contest — that asked, “What is your best idea to build bonds and work together across cultures and faiths?” A judging panel of media professionals, community and faith leaders narrowed down five finalists. The three best ideas were selected by public voting, and the winners earned $15,000 to implement their ideas.

Mohamed’s entry, “Hidden Pearls 7-Step Summer Challenge,” includes breaking stereotypes and empowering others to lead in their communities.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding about Islam, and there isn’t a lot of voices heard,” she says on her winning video. “So, hopefully we can be those voices, and we could clear up those misconceptions.”

Mohamed was recently interviewed on Kare 11 evening news about her entry. (Her segment starts at 7:37.)

Bringing people together

Mohamed, who was born in Ethiopia and came to Minneapolis in 1999, started the Sunnah Sisters during her senior year in high school. The 20 high school or college-age women, from across the Twin Cities, gather each weekend at an old mosque — formerly a church — to talk about anything on their minds.

“They are a group of young, dedicated Muslim women who want to bring change to their community despite all obstacles,” she explains. “As their president, I have come up with not just an idea, but a mission.”

Mohamed’s seven-step challenge starts with leadership training for herself and her religious sisters, followed by visits to local churches and synagogues to speak about their faith; the “walking a mile in my shoes health week;” a community dialog between leaders of different religious groups; Pink Hijab Week to demystify the Muslim headdress; an Open Mosque Day and a daily or weekly television show for youth.

“We [the Sunnah Sisters] are already making an impact in our community,” says Mohamed, also a member of the Muslim Students Association at St. Kate's, “but its small at this moment because we are lacking the resources to do what we really want to do.”

But not anymore. Her $15,000 prize money will go along way.

Learn more about the “Hidden Pearls 7-Step Summer Challenge” or watch Mohamed’s winning video.

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June 20, 2012 by Pauline Oo

See also: Leadership, Social Justice, Students