From Hamtramck to Harvard: How One HPS Student Turned her Dreams into a Reality


By: Omar Thabet

“I never imagined that I would attend an Ivy League school.” 

Sammi Samim, who was born in Bangladesh in 2005 and later emigrated to the United States with her family in 2016, just finished her first year of a full-ride scholarship to Harvard University.

When asked why she chose Harvard, Sammi said, “I just want to make a difference in the world.”

“I went to Harvard because of all of the networking opportunities,” Sammi added. “You can get an education anywhere, as long as you set your mind to it. But at Harvard, what really sets it apart is the networking opportunities and the reputation that it has.”

Sammi attended Hamtramck Public schools when she arrived to America at 11 years old. She recalled her time at Hamtramck High School as the best years of her life.

“The friends I made in high school, I don’t think I will find that ever again,” Sammi said. “I have a really strong connection with the friends I made in high school and I also enjoyed the clubs I participated in.”

One of the “clubs” Sammi is referring to is the Social Justice Group, which is an organization that she created during her junior year in high school. The Social Justice Group helped raise awareness and funds for countries that were facing issues which were relevant to the Hamtramck community. Countries like Bangladesh, Ukraine and Yemen.

Sammi was also the ambassador of Hamtramck High School’s LEAP (Leaners of Environmental Awareness and Preservation) program. During her time with LEAP Sammi helped start a recycling program at one of the middle schools within the city. 

Sammi graduated out of Hamtramck High School in 2023 with a 4.333 GPA. 

When asked what was the hardest part about going from high school to an Ivy League school, Sammi said, “Dealing with procrastination.”

“I really had to learn how to manage my schedule and manage my time better at Harvard,” Sammi added.


It Takes a Village

Sammi would be the first one to admit that if it wasn’t for the support of her parents, she would not be where she is at today. 

When asked who was the most important person in her journey so far, Sammi said, “My mother.”

“If he wasn’t for my mom, I would be immobilized,” Sammi said. “I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the things I was able to do without her. Both of my parents were my support system. My main thing is they trusted me throughout the process.”

It’s not just Sammi’s parents who are proud of her. The whole Hamtramck Public School District is excited to see Sammi’s success.

During the district meeting this past Wednesday, May 1st, Sammi was recognized and given an award by Hamtramck’s school board for her academic accomplishments.

Abdulmalik Algahaim, who is the Vice President of Hamtramck Public School’s Board of Education, is now serving his second year for the district. 

When asked about Sammi’s accomplishments, Abdulmalik said, “I think it’s remarkable. I think all of this came from her dedication.”

Abdulmalik then added, “I also think community support is important. I think having that support from family, friends, educators and mentors is a big key to Sammi’s, and future students’ success.”

Moortadha Obeid, who has been serving on HPS Board of Education for seven years, is now the treasurer for the district. 

When asked about Sammi, Moortadha said, “I am proud to see a person from our district shine like this and go this far. It makes the whole district proud. We want all of our students to follow her lead.”

We also had the opportunity to talk with Jim Larson-Schidler, who is the current interim Superintendent and CFO for Hamtramck Public Schools.

This is Jim’s first year in the HPS District. But after listening in on Sammi’s interview, Jim said, “As a district it makes me feel great that we have students who are inspired and want to achieve their goals. As administrators and educators, we really need to set up students to succeed in whatever their goals are and help them achieve them.”

Advice for Future Grads

Sammi admits it was a little overwhelming during her first year at Harvard but still plans on finishing close to a 3.9 GPA. Students at Harvard don’t get to pick their major until the second semester of their sophomore year, but Sammi said she plans on pursing a degree in cognitive psychology.

When asked what advice would she have for current HHS students who want to attend an Ivy League school, Sammi admitted that students from Hamtramck may have a disadvantage compared to other students when it comes to resources and the opportunities that are available. But that doesn’t mean Hamtramck students are not at an advantage for other things. 

“One advantage we do have is the diversity of our city,” Sammi explained. “It’s important for students to use that as their advantage. If you are from Hamtramck then you are definitely a unique person.  The diversity of our city is something that stands out in the application process.”

Sammi closed out the interview by saying, “If you would like to attend an Ivy league school, I would say stay consistent, set up your goals early, and stand up for what you believe.”