Get to Know… Manal Abbadi
‘I persevered and continued to chase my dreams’
Manal Abbadi has big dreams, but she is also a person of action. The mid-twenties professional is already on the path to achieving her goal of becoming a lawyer. She’s also a mother and community volunteer, who helped organize the Back to School Block Party, served on the Olmsted County Human Rights Commission, and is the chair of the community engagement committee of the NAACP Rochester Branch.
Are you originally from the Rochester area? If not, what led you here?
My parents immigrated to the United States in 2002. Initially, we moved to Chicago, but my parents quickly decided that was not the place they wanted to raise their children. We moved to Rochester, where my aunt lived. Since then I have lived in Rochester and now consider myself a Rochester native. I went to Riverside Elementary School, Friedell Middle School, and graduated from Mayo High School. I don’t think it gets more Rochester, Minnesota than that!
What country did your parents emigrate from? Have you gone through the process of U.S. citizenship? If so, what was that process like for you?
My parents emigrated from Jordan. My parents were granted citizenship in 2010 but they were not sworn in until 2011. They had to ensure they were all sworn in before my 16th birthday or I would have to go through the citizenship process myself. Due to my parents obtaining citizenship prior to me turning 16, I was able to be granted citizenship through them and only had to attend the swearing-in ceremony.
What do you like best about Rochester?
I love how diverse Rochester is. You see people from all different backgrounds and learn so much about different cultures through connecting with people in this city. I love the ethnic food scene that we have here, which I have learned doesn’t exist everywhere (not even in the big cities). I enjoy people and intermingling with the people here.
What changes do you think still need to be made?
I think that the world is progressing, and changes are always happening around us. My hope is that we can live in a world where justice and equity are at the forefront of everything we do. I want to see my children and your children live in a better world that views them as human beings worthy of love, kindness, and equal opportunities. I will not stop believing that we can make this world a better place one step at a time. I will never stop standing up for what I believe to be true, and I will never stop speaking my truth at tables where I sit, even if my voice shakes as I speak. I hope we all can do the same.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I feel like I am an open book and there are a lot of things people know about me, but I guess few people know that I am the oldest of five siblings.
You're a paralegal, right? Why did you choose that for your career?
Yes, I am. I chose the legal field, in general, because I believe that most changes that lead to equity, start legislatively. I have seen the impact that good attorneys have on creating legislative change and a lasting impact on their clients’ lives. When I was younger, I would always tell my mother and father that I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up. I decided to take a gap year, that has now turned into more than one gap year, between undergrad and law school. My long-term goal is to go back to school to become a lawyer. In the meantime, I really enjoy serving my clients every day and working on helping them become whole through the law. I could never see myself in any other field than this one. I enjoy my job and the work I do. It is an extremely rewarding job.
What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to become a paralegal?
Take it one step at a time. Believe in yourself and stand true to what you believe. You will find people who will value who you are and will empower you in this field. Hold on to those people because they will be the key to your success. Enjoy the moment and the learning curve that comes with starting out in this field. Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to elevate, move up, or to prove that we are good at what we do. All of that takes time, so give yourself the time to learn the field of law you decide to enter and give yourself grace when you are learning. Be honest, dedicated, and hardworking. It will take you far.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment and what has been your greatest challenge you've had to overcome?
First and foremost, my biggest accomplishment will always be being a mother to an amazing daughter. As a woman of color and a first-generation immigrant, one of the greatest challenges I have had to overcome was graduating with my bachelor’s degree while working full-time to support myself through school. It was incredibly hard to stay focused, especially after losing my father in the last year of my undergraduate degree. I did not know if I would be able to make it to graduation, but I persevered and continued to chase my dreams. It all paid off in the end and I am grateful for every obstacle I have had to overcome to get here.
Get to know ... is a feature in Rochester In Color, a special section within the Post Bulletin's website that profiles people of color in our community. Find it at www.postbulletin.com/rochester-in-color . If you know of someone who should be featured, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org