Ali Khoddam is the seventh recipient of the CHOICE Scholarship and a member of Whitefish Bay High School’s Class of 2019. He plans on attending Amherst College in the fall to study biochemistry and pre-medicine courses.
The Khoddam family — Ali, brother Hossein and parents Sammie and Asad — moved from Shiraz, Iran to Milwaukee in November 2012 after a protracted process securing visas.
After arriving at their new their home in Whitefish Bay, the entire family set forth adjusting to harsh Wisconsin winters, navigating Milwaukee County’s transit system, and sharing one computer, among other things. Ali attended junior high and high school in Whitefish Bay.
“When I started seventh grade, I only knew ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’,” Ali recalls. For two years he worked with English Language Learner (ELL) teacher Mrs. Kasper. When he entered high school, Ali left the comfort zone of one-to-one English instruction and stepped into the freshman English classroom with his peers. Writing and rewriting essays was tough work. “It took hours of crafting, attempting to translate my thoughts, and revising with my teacher to finally finish,” he says of one assignment.
In addition, he volunteered for the Whitefish Bay Civic Foundation, taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at Luther Memorial Chapel, and participated in Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA). A highlight of his four-year involvement with HOSA included using vascular modeling software to learn about aneurysms and vasculature of the brain. “My favorite class senior year was AP Psychology. That class taught me so much about myself, especially how I think and reason through things,” he says.
During his upperclassman years, Ali was a member of the Whitefish Bay High School Mentorship program. He enjoys seeing how his own positive attitude and enthusiasm lifts others up.
Ali enjoys following sports teams. “I love seeing Milwaukee teams succeed,” he says, though he also roots for the Boston Red Sox. “I love the Bucks,” he says. “I was kinda’ disappointed watching the Bucks lose, but I’m sure we’re going to come back stronger next year.” He also keeps tabs on Iran’s national football team — Team Melli — and follows FIFA World Cup soccer every four years.
Whatever challenges arise in the future, Ali believes perseverance and hard work will pay off. “In my life, I’ve looked at my obstacles as an opportunity to learn and grow as a person,” he says. “If you look at it that way, it’s no longer an obstacle, rather it’s a blessing.” Ali is training to compete in a 36-mile bike ride that takes place mid-June. And when that’s done, he says he may recognize his and other family members’ recent accomplishments in one of his favorite ways. “I get a strawberry jelly-filled cake from Metro Market and invite people to our tiny apartment to celebrate.”
Story by Jean Ryan McHale