When 8-year-old Emina Halilovic arrived in snowy Wisconsin with her parents and sister in 2002, she was unsure of where life was about to take her. As refugees from Bosnia, which was in the midst of a horrific war, the Halilovic family was part of the last group to flee the country and to receive official asylum in the United States. Unable to speak or understand English, they were placed in Waukesha, just five minutes from Carroll University.
Over the next decade, Emina learned English, became a U.S. citizen, and excelled in her studies with plans to attend college always at the top of her mind. When it came time to choose a college, she knew Carroll University was the place for her. “I am a very family-oriented person,” said Emina. “After all we had been through over the years, I knew that I wanted an exceptional college experience, but it was important for me to stay close to home.” Because of the Wisconsin Grant and other financial aid from Carroll, Emina was able to seize the opportunity to attend Carroll.
Long before Emina came to the United States, she knew she wanted to become a doctor, specifically a pediatrician. “I was around many sick children growing up in Bosnia and always tried to help them feel better,” she said. “When my father injured his back a few years ago, I took care of him, and that experience confirmed to me I was heading in the right direction.” In order to gain valuable experience, Emina began to volunteer for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in high school and has racked up over 4,000 service hours working in different areas including the burn program and respiratory and cardiac clinic. For the past year she has worked as an intern there, providing care and comfort to families when they need it most.
When she’s not at the hospital, Emina can be found working at her second job as a receptionist in the student affairs office on campus or serving as a Student Alumni Ambassador (sponsored by the Carroll University Alumni Council). “The relationships I’ve formed with staff members and other students here at Carroll have helped me succeed in and out of the classroom,” said Emina.
As if that’s not enough to keep her busy, two years ago Emina started ‘Walking in Their Shoes,’ a fundraising walk at Carroll to support children in Bosnia and spread awareness of education inequality around the world. This year, over 85 students, staff, faculty, and community members participated and raised $2,300 which helps provide monthly meals and transportation to school for eight children in Kamenica, Bosnia. “I want to give back because I am grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given,” she explains. “I have seen first-hand what it’s like to deal with hardships as a child. I know there are still children struggling in Bosnia, and I hate to see that.”
The future is bright for Emina, who will graduate with a degree in biology premedicine in 2017. The experiences she’s gained through attending college at Carroll University have positively impacted her in many ways. She shares, “I want to be the change and initiate something that will make all children’s lives better.”