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Success Story: Maryam

Maryam lives with her parents and three younger siblings in an apartment just a few blocks away from YWCA St. Paul, but before coming to her first Youth IMPACT event at age 14, she thought it was just a place where people worked out.

Now, 18-year-old Maryam works in YWCA St. Paul Health & Fitness Center’s Kids Care, where gym members can drop their children off while they work out. She earned that job through the skills and connections she made through her consistent attendance of YWCA St. Paul Youth IMPACT programs.

In addition to her job in Kids Care, Maryam attends Central High School, takes classes at St. Paul College, has an internship and teaches at her mosque. The professional skills she’s learned in the last four years—like time management—benefit the ambitious high school senior now and will help her continue to be successful in the future.

The Youth program’s two components—youth employment and young women’s empowerment—have set Maryam on a path different from anyone else in her family. Growing up in Ethiopia, Maryam’s mother was not allowed to go to school past fourth grade. She has encouraged Maryam to take advantage of the opportunities available right up the street from their apartment, and pushed her to keep attending for her entire high school career.

“My mother has been a big support for me,” Maryam said. “I want to go to college for myself first, and for my mother as well—for her to know I’m trying to get to a point where she hasn’t gotten to.”

“I want to go to college for myself first, for my mother as well—for her to know I’m trying to get to a point where she hasn’t gotten to.”


Maryam’s hard work has paid off; she was accepted to several colleges, and will attend Augsburg College this fall.

“I would say she’s definitely more outspoken,” La’Shante Grigsby, YWCA St. Paul Youth Support Specialist, said. “She’s very resourceful. She’s a leader. I’m really excited to see what’s next for Maryam.”

Video Transcript

Maryam: I’ve always knew that there was a YWCA see a near my house but I just thought it was just like a gym and like swimming for mum that’s about it

La’Shante Girgsby, Youth Support Specialist: Maryam has been here since 2014. She came in with she was 14 years old and she’s proof of what we do here in our youth programs.

Maryam: It was just a friendly environment to me. The first day I came it was always welcoming, a safe place, a quiet place.

Deena Zubulake, Director of Programs: We really want to create and foster a welcoming space. We want young people to come in here and know that they are welcome, that they are seen and then they are affirmed for who they are.

Maryam: I am a senior at Central High School and currently also taking classes at St. Paul college

Deena: [off screen speaking, showing Maryam walking into St. Paul College] When I think about IMPACT, the youth program of the YWCA, it has two components: Youth Employment Services and young women’s empowerment

Neil Erickson, Maryam’s Supervisor: Hi Maryam, how are you?

[Neil and Maryam talk in the background, undistinguishable text]

Maryam: The IMPACT program provided a lot of skills for me that I’ve learned over the past four years. I’ve gained other skills from getting it my first job here.

Neil: Well that’s good. Have fun with the kids tonight.

Deena: One of the unique things about the Youth Employment Services here at the YWCA is that we can create opportunities for young people to learn on the job, so they might participate in a job in our health and fitness center.

Neil: Maryam works in our kids care center. The kids care area is where parents drop off their kids for up to a few hours and then they can go work out. Maryam is a wonderful employee. We have a lot of kids that really look forward to seeing her when they come in.

Maryam: I work three part-time jobs and one of them is here at the YWCA. [Maryam entering her home] This is busy, it’s a busy, busy every week but I can say senior year has probably been the busiest

Munira, Maryam’s mother: She’s very hardworking student, yeah. She’s—she’s doing her best.

Maryam: My mother has been a big support for me. My father as well but he’s always working so my mom is the one that’s usually home and she’s always telling me, like oh you should go to the Y.

[Text onscreen: Growing up in Ethiopia, Munira wasn’t allowed to continue school past 4th grade.]

Deena: When I think about Maryam’s experience at the YWCA, I think about how much she has grown.

La’Shante: My goal when young women sign up is that they all come in with at least one goal in mind that they want to work on for themselves. [La’Shante visits Maryam at work] “Hey Maryam, how are you?” [The women continue to chat in the background.] Throughout the course of their time here, we meet individually to have one-on-one coaching sessions. So, I check in with them to kind of see where they are in managing that goal, what are the things that I can do to support them in achieving that goal.

Maryam: The leadership programs have been a great opportunity for me to learn professional skills like time management that will help me in my future.

La’Shante: I would say she’s definitely more outspoken, very resourceful, she’s a leader. I’m really excited to see what’s next for Maryam.

Munira: We don’t want them to live that kind life we lived. It was very important for her to get in their education.

Maryam: I want to go to college for myself first and for my mother as well, for her to know that I’m trying to get to a point where she hasn’t gotten too.

[Text onscreen: Maryam was accepted to several colleges and will attend Augsburg University this fall.]