Self-determined, confident, and loud, Fatoumata Soumare ‘20 is one of those toads that everyone knows.
But how did she become the motivated, sure person she is today? Who was she before she came to Thacher, and how has she grown since arriving at the Ojai Valley from Brooklyn, NY?
For Fatoumata Soumare ‘20, home means much more than just the place she returns to each break. Growing up in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, New York, she was struck by the generational poverty and the limited success that characterized her neighborhood. Reflecting on the environment she was raised in, Fatou expressed, “I guess the way I’ve been motivated is that I want better for myself.”
“Aware of the fact that [she] had to be good,” Fatou saw boarding school as a way to pursue an environment that allowed her to have the opportunities to “start your own club, create an x-block, take a class you are really interested in.” It is this self-awareness that has guided her in her pursuits, bestowing upon her not only her strong trait of motivation, but also of her desire to learn.
“Middle school…people won’t believe this, but I was a nerd!” she laughed. “I literally just did not talk. I just read books all the time.” From teen fiction to nonfiction, Fatou devoured books growing up, and she conveyed that, before coming to Thacher, her interests had yet to be shaped: “I don’t think I really cultivated my interests until I was at Thacher, to be completely honest–that is where I got my passion for social justice and everything under that umbrella, because I felt like there wasn’t a need to have that because I lived in an all-black community.”
So when an alumna told Fatou one day about Thacher, she was fascinated. Captivated by the school’s horse program, clubs, prefect system, and more, Fatou decided to apply: “And, I got in. And I went. It’s crazy how the world works sometimes.”
Starstruck by Ojai’s beauty and “unforgettable” smell of orange blossoms and impressed by how different Californians were from New Yorkers, Fatou fell in love with Thacher. She arrived on campus armed with the motivation she had cultivated from home and a philosophy that reached for the stars, expressing “I am only [at Thacher] once. It is time to take chances, take risks, live life to the fullest.”
At Thacher, Fatou has certainly maintained and exceeded her high expectations of herself, and the highlight of her Thacher career, she conveyed, was pouring her “sweat, tears, and blood and writing and words and typing” into her essay titled ‘Reverse Racism: Can Minorities be Racist?’ that won the NAACP award last year.
Her desire to “find [her] place” in Thacher’s community has been a significant force in guiding her to pursue social justice: “I remember freshman and sophomore year struggling to find where I fit in the Thacher community,” she reminisced. “ I don’t know. I don’t think I’m your average Thacher student.”
As a “minority in every sense,” she communicated, Fatou has continued to hang on to her self-awareness that she developed as a child, never failing to remember her roots. Beyond cultivating her strong foundation, however, Fatou expressed how she has matured since arriving at Thacher, and a significant force in teaching her to do that has been her sophomore year advisor, Mr. Robinson. “As I’ve grown,” she conveyed, “I’ve taken advice from other students, other teachers…[and] for me, P-Rob played a big role in that…[teaching] me to listen to other people, and [to] make the decision off of that.”
Her personal growth at Thacher as well as her cultivation of her roots have prompted her to develop a life philosophy reflective of this strong sense of self, motivation, and awareness: “Ok, this is gonna sound really bad,” she prefaced her this philosophy, giggling, “You don’t pay my bills so why should you care?” “The reason why I say this is because,” she elaborated, “ a lot of the times, I feel like humans, in general, are so wrapped up in what other people think. That is something that disappoints me a little bit because if you feel like you are living the life that makes you happy, then why should you take anybody’s opinion into consideration?”
It is this philosophy, built upon her new and old qualities, that has guided Fatou to follow her innermost desires, confidently declaring, “I will go for things that I want. I’m going to pursue my passions and pursue what I care about to make a difference on this campus.”
And that, she has done.