NWU grad student, refugee inspired to change American justice system

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  • NWU graduate student Rae Sallae.
    NWU graduate student Rae Sallae.
  • NWU graduate student Rae Sallae.
    NWU graduate student Rae Sallae.

Rae Sallae was very young when she knew she wanted to pursue the American Dream.  

Her family fled a totalitarian regime in Northern Iraq when she was 6 years old. They didn’t speak English. They didn’t know anyone in the U.S.. They started over. “We were here, and I just remember the barriers and the struggles that we faced.”

But, she says, that’s when her passion for advocating for others was born. “We had people who reached out, helped and guided us to a way that made the American life possible.” 

Sallae says she faced barriers growing up. “I saw so many people close to me who were treated unfairly because of their background, their economic status and that put me in this frustrated mindset because it came down to the color of their skin or how much money they made.” 

She decided she needed to use her passion to make a change. 

The Kurdish-American refugee enrolled at Nebraska Wesleyan University and received a Bachelor of Social Work. She is working in the juvenile justice system helping provide resources for youth. “Being a single mom, I realized we need to do better for our children.  Most of what I saw in my work were children of color that were at a major disadvantage.” 

Sallae says she needed to do more, and went back to NWU, this time pursuing her Master of Business of Administration. “I need to be in a position to help influence or make that change. I started to think about what would work best for that, the knowledge and background that it would take to make that happen.” 

This spring her family—who didn’t know if they’d escape Iraq—will watch Sallae receive her second degree from NWU.  

“That’s pretty life changing if you ask me,” she says.