The Selemani sisters

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A sibling can play many different roles depending on the family. Sisters Jacqueline Selemani ’19 and Mami Selemani ’20 have separate personalities, but they relate to each other through iJag, their childhood, college and being the oldest of their other siblings.

The two are the oldest of five children. The age range is wide with Jacqueline, a senior, being the oldest, and her two-year-old sister being the youngest. This age gap has forced Jacqueline and Mami to take on more responsibility.

“I’m more of like a mother to them. So I help them with everything,” said Jacqueline about her younger siblings.

Mami drives her little siblings around so she has had to adjust her life to their schedules.

“I think I’m [a] pretty selfish person,” Mami said. “I like to do what benefits me, but I can’t do that so I guess that helps me think about others before I think about myself.”

The nature of their relationship between each other and their younger siblings is also different in terms of conversation topics. Mami will talk with her younger siblings about basketball, but with Jacqueline she’ll discuss college, life after high school and their childhood.

The family has ties to several places in Africa. Jacqueline was born in Tanzania, Mami was born in Mozambique and their parents were born in Zimbabwe. They moved to Kentucky in April of 2007 and two years later came to Iowa.

“There’s more Africans here so, more people from our community we can meet,” Jacqueline said.

Their parents are involved in mothers and fathers groups. The mothers group meets once a week and the fathers meet a few times a month. Sometimes Mami and Jacqueline will attend to celebrate their culture. The groups will enjoy music, food and conversation.

“It’s nice to have people that speak the same language as you, they come from the same place … I feel like it’s just nice to have people who understand who you are as a person and where you come from,” Mami said.

Although she doesn’t have many memories of it, Jacqueline’s experience as a refugee has pushed her towards social work as a career. She plans to study social work at Mount Mercy University, where she has a full ride scholarship.

“My family, we’re refugees. I kind of want to give back to the community and help people in that way,” Jacqueline said.

“She wants to study social work and I think she’ll be phenomenal, so my hope is that that works out for her and she’s able to do it and it fulfills that need in her to give back to others,” said iJag teacher Kerry Kilker.

The two are both leaders in the iJag program, a class that helps prepare students for life after high school. Mami is the Secretary Treasurer and Jacqueline is the Coordinator for Community Service.

In the fall of 2018, Mami attended the National Student Leadership Academy, where she competed in leadership skills. She was also required to give a speech on why she was in iJag.

“I just wanted a better future and I needed a support system, and I feel like iJag is a really good support system, and it’s helped me,” Mami said.

Jacqueline will be leaving West soon, but Mami still has a year to decide what her future holds. Like her sister, Mami is interested in helping people. Kilker has high hopes for what they will accomplish.

“I have no doubt that they will both be very successful in the future, and whatever either one of them set their minds to, it’s going to get done,” said Kilker. “They work, and if anything comes up that they want to do, they don’t need a lot of pushing or a lot of reminders or anything like that. They take care of themselves and they’ve been doing that for a very long time.”

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