From refugee to citizen of the world
By Carla Beecher
When recent Arrupe College graduate Sanay Ma (AA ’18) left her native Burma with her parents in 2007 through a U.N.-sponsored refugee resettlement program, she was fleeing from ethnic persecution and began a new life.
She and her parents relocated to Rogers Park when Sanay was 10. After graduating from Josephinum Academy of the Sacred Heart in Wicker Park, she reached out to her former high school counselor, Julie Garcia, who was now working as Arrupe College’s placement director. Garcia encouraged Sanay to apply.
“Sanay is extremely bright,” said Julie. “In high school, I always knew that she had incredible academic potential, so I was happy she came to Arrupe. She flourished here and will, without a doubt, go on to do great things.”
Sanay credits Arrupe for giving her a second chance at a better future. “I am forever grateful, because now I am at Loyola,” Sanay said in the dorm room she shares with friend and fellow Arrupe graduate Neerida Akakpo (AA ’18). Both are now juniors at Loyola University Chicago.
Inspired by the challenges she has faced on the unique path that led her halfway around the world in pursuit of education, she plans to go to law school. “My goal is to work for the FBI after I get my law degree,” Sanay said. “I want to make positive changes in people’s lives and think I could do that through the criminal justice system.”
Sanay, who gained U.S. citizenship in 2017, attended Arrupe with scholarship support. She currently helps local children with their homework through the Burmese Ministry Program at St. Paul’s by the Lake in Rogers Park, and she used to tutor for the Asian Human Services organization on the city’s Northwest Side during her time at Arrupe. She has volunteered and been paid to translate English for the Burmese community as well at the Cook County Juvenile Courthouse, and she served as vice president of scholarships for Beta Phi Pi, the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at Arrupe. In addition to belonging to Loyola’s Pre-Law Society and its Criminal Justice Student Organization, she is a member of the FBI Chicago City Citizens Academy for Students.
Budgeting her time is a top priority since she’s enrolled in seven courses this semester and interning for both the Cook County Sheriff’s legal department—where she conducts legal research and is getting a first-hand look at the U.S. court system by attending hearings—and for the Archdiocese of Chicago Office of Catholic School, where she performs administrative duties.
“Arrupe taught me the awareness of world issues,” said Sanay. “I plan to use my education to contribute and participate in the social justice issues I believe in.”
“Sanay exemplifies resilience,” said Fr. Steve Katsouros, S.J., Arrupe College’s founding dean and executive director. She has navigated much more than most young adults—and the result of that navigation is an outstanding young woman who embraces challenges and succeeds.”