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Years after family sought asylum at B.C. border, teen attending UBC on $80K scholarship


Five years ago, Ashki Shkur and her family crossed the border into B.C. as asylum-seekers – and next week, she will be crossing the stage at her high school graduation.

She’ll soon fulfill a lifelong dream of attending university as well, with a full ride to UBC through its $80,000 Centennial Scholars Entrance Award. She’s also the recipient of the TD Community Leadership, Terry Fox and Beedie Luminaries scholarships.

For Shkur, reaching this point feels “surreal.” If she had stayed in her home country, life would be very different.

Originally from Kurdistan – a region spanning Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Armenia – she was told she couldn’t attend school.

“There's also obviously different types of obstacles, like gender-based persecution when it comes to education,” Shkur said.

That’s why the family uprooted their lives in search of better opportunities in North America.

“I'm just smiling because it just feels like a dream for me. All of this is what I've worked for all my life,” Shkur told CTV News.

CTV News first met Shkur and her family when she was just 12 years old, shortly after they were arrested at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in their attempt to seek asylum

The family had previously spent one year living in the U.S., but after President Donald Trump issued an executive order to halt travel from seven countries, including Iraq, they feared they would be deported.

They first tried crossing the border in Ontario, where Shkur had the task of asking, “Can we seek asylum?”

“I remember I had memorized that exact line because I didn't speak English,” she explained.

They were denied because of the safe third country rule, which allowed officials to reject their application since they already lived in the U.S.

But they did not feel safe living under Trump’s rule, so one year later, they tried again, this time crossing illegally at Peace Arch.

Days later, they were given deportation orders, but with the help of a lawyer, they were able to get permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds

When they arrived in Canada, they were a family of four. Now, Shkur has another younger sister, who’s just three.

During their time in British Columbia, Shkur has thrived in her community and at Vancouver’s Britannia Secondary School.

She founded The Ripple Effect, a non-profit that helps spread information about humanitarian issues in the world. She is also an ambassador at Britannia Secondary School for the Girls Can Talk Society, which helps foster an environment for girls to be empowered and speak freely on issues in their communities.

She is also student council president.

With all the extracurricular activities, she still manages to get straight As, averaging 97 per cent.

Her plan is to finish her bachelor’s degree in four years, then apply for medical school.

“I am beyond grateful. And I can't wait to be able to become a doctor and become a surgeon and be able to further give back to this community, to this country,” she said.

She and her family are in the process of becoming Canadian citizens.


This story has been updated to correct Shkur's relationship to the Girls Can Talk Society. She is an ambassador for the group at Britannia Secondary, not the group's founder. Top Stories

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