Background: Souha Ltifi, 39, currently lives in Elmhurst but came into the United States from Tunisia in 1999. Fascinated by American culture and music, Ltifi came to the country for a better life and a chance to enjoy freedoms that were forbidden to her as a woman in Tunisia, where her younger brothers were allowed to play outside and ride a bike but she wasn’t. She speaks Arabic, French and English and is now married and the mother of two children, ages 9 and 5 months.
Occupation: Ltifi is currently a full-time student in her final semester of Queensborough Community College studying business administration, but she has worked a number of jobs to support herself, including busing tables at a restaurant, driving an ice cream van, and counting prescription medication as a pharmacy technician. She will be transferring to Queens College following her graduation.
Community Involvement: Ltifi became president of the Business Society after being encouraged to apply for the position by professor and mentor Linda Meltzer.
Greatest Achievement: “When I came here, for a whole week I didn’t know where I was sleeping. I slept in the airport for a couple of days, Astoria Park for a couple of nights. I didn’t know the language, didn’t know anybody. I never thought one day that I would be a student, that someone would be interviewing me like this. I feel very proud of myself. I didn’t speak the language, but now I’m sitting in a student’s desk and I understand and I get A’s and B’s.”
Biggest Challenge: “Balancing between study and home. It’s really hard to balance having kids and doing schoolwork, I have to do homework together with my son. I have to be mother, wife and student at the same time.”
Inspiration: Ltifi had to work to support her four younger siblings while they pursued an education, and she is the last one to finish up her degree. She was motivated to work toward her own education after each of her siblings found success in their respective fields, and she says that her biggest inspiration is to make her family proud, especially her 9-year-old son.
“I want them to be proud of me, how I did,” Ltifi said. “It’s not easy to come here and advance and study. I want him to use me as inspiration, and finish school and be a good citizen.”