Class of Spring 2023: CASL graduate Hadeel Alayosh

April 17, 2023

Hadeel Alayosh experienced war in Syria, lived in a refugee camp and relocated to the U.S. with help from a United Nations agency — all by age 16. Now the biological sciences major is graduating and wants to inspire others.

Graphic of Class of 2023 graduate Hadeel Alayosh
Class of 2023 graduate Hadeel Alayosh Graphic/Violet Dashi

Growing up, Hadeel Alayosh earned honors at school — there were so many that her parents would say they saw medical school in her future. She excelled in science and biology and was very involved taking care of people in her Syrian community.

College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters Class of 2023 graduate Alayosh plans to make good on her family’s premonition, with a slight twist — she’s eying dental school. “Everything starts at the mouth since it is a direct route to the internal body,” said the biological sciences major. “I want people to help people keep their mouths healthy.”

Walking at the April 30 commencement ceremony, Alayosh will officially graduate in August and take her Dental Admission Test later this year. She completed her dentist job shadowing hours and is currently working in a Dearborn dental office as an assistant. Alayosh plans to attend dental school in fall 2024.

Alayosh said she’s focused on meeting, and even exceeding, her goals — and her life journey’s show how much determination Alayosh and her family have.At age 13 in 2013, Alayosh lived in Syria, her birth country. She knew there were tensions between the government and anti-government groups, but it seemed safe in her neighborhood.

Then people she knew started to go missing. “They’d go to the grocery store and never come back,” she said. The peaceful place where she’d play outdoors with friends gave way to violence. “Parents would be killed in the street right in front of their children.” Then her grandparents and extended family moved to a refugee camp in Jordan. To see them, Alayosh’s parents took their children to the camp. The family, planning to return to Syria, only packed items for a short trip. But they never returned.

“The conditions got worse while we were gone and we learned we couldn’t go back because it was not safe for us. There were bombings and violence. Everything we had was left in the house — our family photos, my school awards, everything. It was gone.”

She said the camp had no water sources or electricity and people easily became sick. But the family stayed because it was safer than living in Syria — and there was something to eat. Alayosh knew people who died due to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s “surrender or starve” strategy. “They surrounded the cities and refused to let food or medicine in. This affected innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the war. Starving people ate leaves off the trees. I talked to another UM-Dearborn student from Syria and she saw people in her hometown eating mud,” she said. “The food was not good in the camp, but at least there was something to eat.”

After getting her dental credentials, Alayosh said she would like to return to help people living in refugee camps by providing healthcare and assistance.

To Alayosh’s parents one of the worst parts of the relocation experience was the lack of education available to their children. Even when the family moved to Jordan’s capital city of Amman in late 2013, Alayosh was still unable to attend school due to obstacles that Alayosh said includes refugee discrimination.

“I remember seeing my mother crying. She kept saying, ‘My kids don’t go to school.’  My parents even considered returning to Syria because they worried what would become of us if we did not have the opportunity to go to school. But they were also worried about what would happen to us if they did go back. They just wanted what was best for their family.”

In 2016, the United Nations stepped in. Alayosh’s immediate family was contacted by the International Organization for Migration, which offered to help them relocate to the United States — and more specifically, Dearborn.

“The first thing we did was look up Dearborn, Michigan on YouTube,” Alayosh said..” We didn’t speak English and my dad felt relief to see signs in Arabic. He said, ‘We can do this. We will be ok’.”

Alayosh said her parents were especially relieved when they saw the available educational opportunities in the U.S. Alayosh enrolled at Riverside Academy West in Dearborn and was glad to be in school again. She took textbooks home and worked on her English. Alayosh said an English as a Second Language educator at the high school, Manal Assi, helped guide her through SATs and the college application process.

Alayosh wanted to stay local when it came to college. As the eldest among her 10 siblings, she helps with translation and other family needs. After all her parents have done for her, Alayosh said she wants to help care for them. Living in Dearborn, Alayosh said she could do that while also preparing for graduate school.

Recognizing the University of Michigan name and feeling welcome on the campus, Alayosh knew UM-Dearborn was the right place for her. After two years at Henry Ford College, she transferred, joined the Dearborn Wolverine family and continued the honor roll streak that she began in Syria.

In addition to high academic achievement, Alayosh makes time to participate in campus-led opportunities to volunteer with nonprofit organizations that help families who are food insecure and homeless.Looking back on the last 10 years, her advice is to “never give up.” Wearing her cap and gown for photos prior to graduation day, Alayosh said UM-Dearborn helped her — and her parents — fulfill a dream.

“My parents were going to risk danger to get me an education, so you can only imagine how proud they are to see me graduate,” she said. “I wanted to tell my story so people experiencing things that may seem insurmountable have hope. I want them to know that they are not alone and that it’s important to still believe in your dreams.”

Article by Sarah Tuxbury.