South Mecklenburg High seniors Marwah Nedawi and her twin brother, Abdullah Nedawi, are planning service careers that are too exciting for their mother.
"She was excited when I said I wanted to be a doctor," Marwah said, "but when I mentioned the military, she said, 'No.'"
Abdullah's choice of law enforcement received a similarly cool reception. But the twins are set on lives of service and are finishing school early to get a jump on the future. They will be among more than 900 students participating in midyear graduations Feb. 8 at Bojangles' Coliseum.
"Marwah and Abdullah have a seemingly innate drive for success that trumps any sort of apathy or fatigue," said teacher Andrae Bergeron. "Both are also naturally intelligent – and with this, added to their passion for learning, they are quite a force.
"They were constant sources of aid to other students," he said. "Their selflessness and determination helped not only them, but those around them as well."
Marwah said she decided on early graduation because she has years of medical studies ahead of her. She said she wants to have a break to get her life in order and to spend time with her family before the next phase of her life begins. She plans to major in biology and minor in either anatomy or general medicine at Wingate University. In addition to the military, she is considering joining Doctors Without Borders when her medical training is complete.
"I don't want to be stuck behind a desk," she said. "I want to travel, meet people and have an effect on others."
Marwah, the oldest (by 5 minutes), was the first to decide on early graduation. Abdullah thought it was a good option and followed suit.
Abdullah will enroll at Central Piedmont Community College this summer and take core classes before attending UNC Charlotte. He wants to double-major in criminal justice and computer science in preparation for becoming a police officer or joining the FBI.
"I want to do something that's exciting, that gets the blood pumping and where I can be of help," Abdullah said. "My mom's not thrilled about my being a police officer, but she just doesn't want me being at risk."
Her reluctance may come in part from the family's history. The twins, 18, were born in Iraq, where their father was a petroleum engineer working with the U.S. military. The family was subject to threats – including a bomb that went off at their home – but Marwah said she still has good memories of those early years. When the twins were in first grade, the family moved to Jordan and then to Charlotte in 2008.
"Our experience has made us more understanding," Marwah said. "It opened our eyes and made us appreciative of our education and opportunities."
Marwah's graduation project was on post-9-11 hate crimes against Muslims. She spoke to classes at South Mecklenburg and said she believes people are undereducated on the topic. Teacher Erika Ruckert said Marwah has been an influential student and achieves high standards with confidence, composure and maturity.
"She embraces every opportunity and facilitates conversations that encourage others to think for themselves," Ruckert said. "She has a sweet spirit and displays empathy toward the people she interacts with on a regular basis."
Abdullah's graduation project was on informational privacy, specifically the access debate between Apple and the FBI. He interviewed Apple users and police officers, who gave him more insight into the jobs they perform, and plans to do ride-alongs after graduation.
"I want to be a police officer because they uphold the Constitution and what this nation's built on," Abdullah said. "It's a tough job, but it's very rewarding at the end of the day."
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