Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Rashi Hemnani never imagined that she would end up at Eastern New Mexico University. Rashi, who is majoring in early childhood education with a minor in English as a second language, now has a dream to encourage young children to change the world.
"I want to inspire young minds to be the change in the world that they want to see and become world citizens that love, respect and spread kindness to everyone they come across," she said.
Volunteering at organizations such as AngelsXpress, Gulf Star and Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity gave Rashi the chance to work with young children who gave her a love for teaching.
While attending the Abu Dhabi Film Festival several years ago, Rashi met her now husband, Andrew Ferguson. At the time, Rashi was trying to find a university to pursue her undergraduate degree, while Andrew was hoping to pursue a master's degree in digital filmmaking. Andrew told her about Eastern, calling it the best university he had been to, and they both started the application process.
Rashi, who, at the time, had never been to the United States, stated, "I decided to take a chance. My whole life I lived in a large city, and I needed a change. When my husband said small town Portales, he definitely meant small. It was not what I was expecting at all. However, ENMU has continuously exceeded my expectations."
When she moved to America, Rashi became a teacher's assistant at the Child Development Center (CDC) on campus, where she decided that becoming a teacher was definitely the right path for her.
The international student, who wants to teach kindergarten, says, "Working with children in that age group is magical. I have a chance every day to see them discovering, exploring and hypothesizing how the world around them works. I know that every day I am influencing and being a role model to a child who can change tomorrow's future."
Multiple professors have been important in advancing Rashi's knowledge of what it means to become an educator. Her mentors include Dr. Kathie Good, department chair of the CDC, Casey Fall-Guerra, director of the CDC, and Geni Flores, instructor of bilingual education.
"These professors have taught me to understand the different ethnicities I will come across as a teacher, and how to help students from those backgrounds," Rashi says. "They have also developed me professionally to be prepared for the teaching field."
The junior also credits Katie Stevens and Tracey Bullock, teachers at the CDC, and Kathy Maddux, who was a master teacher at the CDC, for being influential during her educational career. She explains, "Working hands-on with teachers is just amazing, they have all helped me grow as an educator by putting me in real life settings."
The Greyhound gives strong advice to students in the early childhood education field, telling them: "Be passionate about changing the lives of young children. You will come across challenges you will not expect, but stay calm because you will learn to navigate around them."
The CDC is Rashi's favorite place on campus. "Walking into a room full of smiling children and knowing I am in there making a difference always makes my day," she said.
"My favorite part about being a Greyhound is knowing I'm from such a diverse population of students, and despite that, it doesn't stop us from being a community," she shared.
"Sun Set Yoga," taught by Amiee Constantopoulos, has been Rashi's favorite course at ENMU. "While in yoga, I met my life long best friend, Mikelle Anderson. She has been the most supportive person in Portales since my freshmen year and has been with me through thick and thin," she explained.
Rashi's family is originally from Mumbai, India. Her father is a textile salesman, and her mother is a fashion designer. She has one younger sister.
In her free time, the ENMU student enjoys photography, writing, creating poetry, doing Pinterest crafts, making henna art, traveling, cooking and baking.