Success Story: Nagia Kurabi, The Student Whisperer
March 18, 2022
It was time for another change. A big one.
Nagia Kurabi had survived many changes throughout her life – challenges, really – and now she needed to start a new career. Unhappy with organizational changes, she had just resigned after 18 years as a bank officer.
“I am tough,” she revealed. “And life is not smooth. You are going to face struggles and it’s going to go up and down. You must be patient and to believe in yourself.”
That toughness is part of Nagia’s DNA. Literally. A descendent of Khalid ibn al-Walid, the Arab Muslim warrior/commander who served Muhammad in the seventh century, she was ready for battle.
Change started early for Nagia. Looking in from the outside, her childhood in Damascus appeared privileged. Nagia and her three siblings attended private schools and learned the classics. The family traveled throughout Europe and North Africa.
Not All Was As It Seemed
From the inside, her story was more complex. As a toddler, Nagia’s grandparents in Beirut raised her for three years to allow her mother, a nationally recognized physician, and her father, a Palestinian writer and political academic, to focus on their careers.
Her father also planned to move the family out of Syria. They took their first trip to the United States in 1983 then returned in 1985, just after Nagia completed high school. To her surprise, her father announced that she would enroll in George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, while the family would return to Syria, then rejoin her in 1987.
Nagia refused to live in the United States alone, a move her father did not anticipate. Her persistence paid off, and the entire family returned to Syria. Nagia enrolled in the Intermediate Health Institute of Damascus to study as a physical therapist assistant.
She graduated in 1987 and the family successfully moved to Northern Virginia that year. Soon after, her father’s health began to fail. Physically, he started to go blind. Mentally, he studied for his doctoral degree and advocated for Palestinian justice.
And he was unable to support his family. With no income source, Nagia’s mother worked as a low-paying physician assistant. Nagia accepted jobs in nursing homes, sold Mary Kay cosmetics, and taught private piano lessons to children. She enrolled full time in Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) for general studies and English.
And she missed AJ terribly.
AJ, or Ahmad Kurabi, met Nagia when they were both physical therapy students. When he proposed to her at nineteen years old, his family did not approve their engagement until 1987, two years later and around the time that Nagia and her family permanently moved to the United States. AJ stayed in Syria and began his three-year, conscripted service with the Syrian military.
They married in 1990.
Life was not easy however for the newlyweds. They returned to Virginia and moved frequently, struggling to support themselves and their two young sons, who arrived in subsequent years. It was tough to find stable work. AJ took NOVA classes and worked odd jobs, driving taxis and stocking shelves. He earned his certification as a physical therapist associate in Fairfax County and opened a spa business that eventually failed. They moved back to Syria and returned to Virginia within months. At this point, AJ opened his own luxury transport business gaining wealthy clients.
But Nagia still needed to find her niche.
Finally, a local bank hired Nagia as a bank officer in 1999, where she remained until 2018.
Change Defined 2018
After her resignation from the bank because of organizational changes there, she and AJ sold their home and rented a townhome in Prince William County near her parents to save money.
Her father was completely blind. Her mother fell ill and passed away. Nagia struggled emotionally, mentally, and financially.
“I felt like a forgotten person,” she confessed. “But I had energy and knowledge and all of this experience in my head, but I couldn’t find what I wanted.”
A Computer CORE flyer at a workforce development site in Woodbridge changed her life. Nagia called, enrolled in their program, and graduated. Later, when she saw CORE was hiring, she applied and was selected from several applicants as the Student Recruitment Manger.
In April 2021, she was promoted to Community Outreach and Student Success Manager.
Or, the “student whisperer” as the rest of the staff began to call her.
Why? Nagia brings her love of family to work. “I focus on each student, and I care about each one of them,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You are part of the Computer CORE family now and we care about each one of you. We’re going to continue to touch base with you because we want to see you successful.’”
Her other message to alumni? Computer CORE’s program is different now. There are many more course selections. “And it’s free,” she added.
“When I got to Computer CORE,” Nagia reflected, “it gave me the opportunity to grow and to find myself.” The staff at Computer CORE has supported Nagia since she began work, even when her beloved AJ passed away from COVID complications in November 2020.
At the executive director’s urging, she has applied to George Mason University to complete her degree.
And she is staying with Computer CORE.
“I enjoy what I’m doing,” declared the student whisperer. “It doesn’t seem like just a job. Computer CORE is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
In Nagia’s short video, she answers three questions about her hopes and dreams, and how Computer CORE open doors for everyone.
We had three questions for Nagia, and she had three answers!
Author Jane Hess Collins is a communications consultant and coach, and the founder and executive director of Heard, a nonprofit that brings creativity and life skills to people in need. www.heardnova.org