New DeVry University Advantage Academy grad doubles up with associate’s degree at the same time

Salma Elannani says that, coming to Chicago from Morocco, ‘People assumed that because you didn’t speak English, you were less intelligent or slow.’ She proved them wrong.

SHARE New DeVry University Advantage Academy grad doubles up with associate’s degree at the same time
Salma Elannani, 18, of Albany Park, graduated high school and earned an associate’s degree at the same time through DeVry University Advantage Academy.

Salma Elannani, 18, of Albany Park, graduated high school and earned an associate’s degree at the same time through DeVry University Advantage Academy.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

Getting her high school diploma and an associate’s degree at 18 is beyond what DeVry University Advantage Academy’s valedictorian could have expected when she came to the United States from Morocco eight years ago.

“Coming [here] told me that I could do anything that I may or may not have been able to do in Morocco,” Salma Elannani says, “even if I worked hard and studied as much as I could there.”

Early on at Peterson Elementary School, not knowing English meant her classmates and teachers’ “made me feel like there was a bridge [separating us] that I never felt before,” she says. “Also, people assumed that because you didn’t speak English, you were less intelligent or slow, which is not true. It was a difficult thing to get past, too, being able to tell them, ‘No, just because I don’t speak the language doesn't mean I’m stupid.’ ”

That inspired her to learn the language as quickly as she could and to excel academically.

Salma graduated from DUAA, a Chicago Public School, on Tuesday as the school’s valedictorian.

“It’s incredible that you can be in the top of your class in your second language,” her high school counselor Julienne Ricker says. “She’s very independent and self-sufficient, and she can usually figure out how to solve a problem on her own.”

When Salma heard about the dual-enrollment program that would award her an associate’s degree in network systems administration from DeVry University, she says, “It was an opportunity that I never thought that I’d be able to get,” to earn a diploma and an associate’s degree at 18. She’ll be receiving her degree in July.

She hopes that helps her graduate early from DePaul University, where she’ll study actuarial science.

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