Friday, May 26, 2017

Xsana Yusef: Handling Adversity With Aplomb

Xsana Yusef is posing for photos in front of the library on the Spring Woods High School campus when a passing classmate calls out to her.

“You’re beautiful, Xsana!”

Xsana smiles – a modest, humble, genuine smile, the attention both flattering and embarrassing her. The shoot continues.

That’s Xsana Yusef, said 12th-grade principal Denis Blais.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Blais, laughing, when told the story. “She just has always been mature … and very aware of who she is.”

Her path to graduation has been laden with obstacles, Blais said, but she’s always been true to herself while surrounding herself with friends.

“(Xsana’s) able to handle adversity in such a way that it brings other people to her,” said Blais. “She’s comfortable in her own skin.”

Xsana and her family – mother, father, three siblings and some pets – lived for nine years in a two-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment.

“We were packed in pretty tight,” said Xsana. “We had lived in a hotel for a while but we were glad to have an apartment. It didn’t matter what size it was.”

Earlier this year, though, the family was evicted, then her parents separated.

Her mother and siblings moved to Willis to live with Xsana’s grandmother. Xsana wanted to finish her senior year – her high school career, actually – at Spring Woods.

She was able to move in with the family of one of her friends, living with them during the week and visiting her own family on weekends.

For Xsana, the situation isn’t ideal but one for which she’s extremely grateful.

“It’s very different (living with another family) but they’re friendly and welcoming,” said Xsana. “I’m not always sure how to respond but we get along very well.

“I feel a little guilty – they’re not in the best situation either, so I really appreciate it,” she said.

Seems, though, that Xsana is not one to let a difficult situation get in her way. She’s an A student, in the top 10 percent of her graduating class – number 33 to be exact. She’s taken all pre-AP and AP (Advanced Placement) courses, and has excelled in them.

Some of that drive comes from her parents, who she said are smart in different ways. Conversations about politics and other lively topics were frequent in the Yusef house, and Xsana wanted to be included in those conversations.

“I wanted to keep up,” she said, adding that academically, she likes the challenge of AP courses and the drive of the students who take them.

She plans to attend the University of Houston and study digital media, although she’s unsure about any particular career right now. She wants to be “computer smart” and will take programming courses as well, but she also likes art and graphic design.

More than anything, though, she wants to be independent.

“I’ve been relying on other people … kind of eating off other people’s plates,” said Xsana. “I want to help my family and the others who have helped me.”

High school has been fun for Xsana, but stressful, too – “the problems are always in the back of your mind,” she said, “especially finances.”

She wanted to get a job this year, but circumstances intervened.

“Senior year is expensive,” she said – yearbooks, prom dresses – everything costs money.

“I wanted it to be fun but it’s hard without asking other people (for help),” she said. (For the record, Xsana did indeed attend the Spring Woods prom.)

Blais, her principal, remains impressed.

“Xsana never once waivered from her morals,” said Blais. “You know, you graduate 482 kids, and you worry about some – did we do enough? Are they going to be OK?

“I never worry about Xsana.”

by Rusty Graham


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