Normandale Reader Story - Bayan Tawalkana

By Steven Geller - Director of Media and Public Relations

Bayan Tawakalna's journey to Normandale has taken a long and circuitous route, but each stop has provided her with more confidence and resolve to accomplish her goals. Tawakalna's family had a good life in Syria before the instability in the country forced them to leave in 2013.

Her dad received a visa in the U.S. where he initiated his asylum application with hopes of eventually getting the whole family there. Tawakalna, her two siblings and mom lived in Egypt and Turkey for three years before finally coming to Minnesota in 2016 to join him.

Tawakalna's original plan was to get her bachelor's degree and go to medical school, but she changed her mind at Normandale.

"As I met more people through various community events and at Normandale, I learned about many different backgrounds and cultures," said Tawakalna. "I discovered that I liked working with communities more than individuals. I was also part of the University of Iowa Summer Health Professionals Education Program that helped me understand I was interested in public health." Tawakalna recently graduated with a degree in computer science and a minor in public health. She wants to make complicated healthcare systems easier for people from any background to navigate to get what they need.

This spring, Tawakalna was a semifinalist for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship and was selected as the student speaker at the Normandale Foundation Ovations event.  Tawakalna hopes to inspire refugees to envision what they can accomplish and she appreciates the role Normandale has played in her growth and success.

"Normandale has welcomed me with open arms," said Tawakalna. "To think of where I started and where I am right now is unbelievable. Everyone at Normandale believes in you, and that is what it takes for students like me to have success and believe in themselves."