Isawaty Kasim was born and grew up in Indonesia, a country most Americans remember as the area hardest struck by the 2004 tsunami. Her family came to the United States in the summer of 2000. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Secretarial Vocation from Jakarta, Indonesia, but because of the language and cultural differences, she could not apply her skills in the United States.
Kasim enrolled at Owens Community College in the fall of 2001 in business classes, after her husband encouraged her to go back to school. It was difficult for Kasim at first. She only took one class the first semester because she was worried about the amount of extra time she would need to spend studying to overcome the language barriers.
Her direction changed when she took a job as an assistant teacher at a local church's toddler program. After working with young children, she felt a calling to work in the education field. What started out as a part-time job quickly became an important part of her life. She found herself enchanted with the children she taught.
"I began to see myself as a different person as a result of my Owens education. Not only did I gain self confidence and the courage to be a teacher, but I also felt prepared to set out and find my own classroom," said Kasim.
Over time, Kasim built up her confidence and now feels comfortable talking to adults and children. During this December's commencement ceremony, Kasim served as class representative and addressed the more than 2,500 attendees. She graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education Technology. Additionally, she received an Early Childhood Center Director's Certificate from Owens.
Kasim earned an impressive 4.0 GPA. She was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society and was nominated for the Gerald Bazer Award and the Outstanding Graduate in the Field of Teacher Education award.
Kasim credits her educational success to her spiritual faith, her husband, David Darmahkasih and her two children, Andrew, 17 and Andrea, 16. She is also grateful for the support her sister-in-law, Esther Chiu, and her family provided when Kasim first came to America.
In the future she would like to pursue a bachelor's degree and be an administrator or operate her own preschool program or childcare center.
"I want to be a teacher like the professors I had at Owens. They were role models and have inspired me to try to teach as well as they do," said Kasim.