In a world where adversity often defines our path, there are those whose stories inspire, and whose resilience transcends the trials they face. Parisa Ghafoor, the 2024 Ivy Tech Indianapolis student commencement speaker, embodies such resilience.

Ghafoor’s life has been marked by challenges, starting with the loss of her father at a young age. She quickly learned the value of perseverance early on as she took on the role of breadwinner. 

Growing up in Afghanistan, where educational opportunities for girls are limited, Ghafoor faced additional obstacles. But she refused to let societal norms dictate her future. Leaving her homeland behind, she embarked on a journey for better opportunities, facing discrimination along the way but remaining determined.

Now, graduating with an associate degree in psychology from Ivy Tech Indianapolis, Ghafoor sees this as just the beginning. She’s set her sights on Indiana University for her bachelor’s degree, driven by a passion to help others through psychology. 

We sat down for a Q&A with Ghafoor to learn more about her, her time at Ivy Tech Indianapolis, her journey, aspirations, and more! 

Why did you choose Ivy Tech Indianapolis?

When I came to America, my financial situation was not that great, but I wanted to go to college. I knew I wanted to pursue my education but also work. Everyone at Ivy Tech understood my situation and was very helpful. They helped me fill out my FAFSA and make a class schedule that worked around my work schedule.

What inspired you to pursue a career in psychology?

I love love love talking to people!

I had a tough past, but I taught myself to come out of depression and how to continue being nice to people. I help my friends by talking with them and giving them life advice. I saw the smiles on their faces, and I thought, “I think this is what I should do.” The love I have for people, for observing, for making people’s lives better, feels like my calling. I want to do this for the rest of my life. 

Can you share a memorable experience that you had during your time at Ivy Tech Indianapolis? 

My very first day of classes!

I was so excited. I woke up, did my makeup, and was getting ready to head out when my sister, sleeping next to me, woke up and asked, “What are you doing?”

I said, “I’m going to college!” 

And she said, “Parisa, it’s 1 a.m.!”

That’s how excited I was to come to college! Because, in my country, girls can no longer go to school or pursue an education, so it’s a big deal that I am. 

Did anything surprise you about Ivy Tech?

One thing that surprised me about Ivy Tech is that it lets you pick your own schedule! I thought you had to have a certain number of classes every semester, which wasn’t the case. I was able to go at my own pace. 

I didn't know that college could be easy for a student who is also working and that they can still feel free. It's really important not to feel bound to something. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced at Ivy Tech Indianapolis, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was time management because I wanted to work and make money while pursuing my education. The best thing I learned was how to master my time while in one of my classes at Ivy Tech. I realized that it's not about motivation; it's about discipline. Some days we are motivated and some days we are not, but if we have the discipline to do the things we need to do, regardless of motivation, we will figure it out and get it done.  

Something the professor of this class always said that stuck with me was:

 “As long as you look for obstacles, you will never have time to look for solutions. If you want to find solutions, you have to stop looking for barriers along the way.” 

How have your experiences at Ivy Tech Indianapolis shaped your goals and aspirations? 

Ivy Tech has inspired me. I believe that where I go, I can do anything. The inspiration I get from Ivy Tech is the sky is the limit. 

It was a dream of mine to stand on a stage and deliver a speech, and Ivy Tech said to me, “We believe in you,” when they chose me! Regardless of where you’re from or your GPA, Ivy Tech said my story means something. This belief inspires me in me.

What is your favorite part of the Ivy Tech Indianapolis campus?

The library! I love libraries and study rooms. It’s beautiful, clean, and very comfortable. 

What does it mean to you to walk across the stage at commencement and grab your diploma?

It’s a dream come true. 

What made you want to be a speaker at commencement? 

I always imagined myself standing on a stage and talking to people, sharing my story with them, and giving them advice. No matter what problem we have faced in life, we can always overcome it. 

This was also a great opportunity to start my career as well. I would like to pursue my career in this field, and I would like to deliver my speeches in more places. And you know, I actually wrote in my diary when I was 14 years old, in my native language, that one day I would be standing on the stage and talking to people. I will share just how hard it is to live in Afghanistan and pursue your education. 

What is something you wish you knew before starting college?

Regardless of how fast or slow we are going, as long as we are moving forward, we will not be stuck in the same place. One thing I learned is that time is going to keep passing by. Whether you start pursuing your goals today or in four years, time is going to keep going either way. So, what are you gonna call yourself in 10 years? For me, whenever people say, “Oh, it’s going to take so long to become a doctor,” I say, “Time is passing by anyways.”

Time is passing, and it stops for no one. The best thing you can do for yourself is to just start. Keep going – it doesn’t matter how slow or fast you’re going. Just keep going and don’t stop. You will get what you want. 

What’s next for you? 

I have submitted my application to IU and am pursuing my bachelor's in psychology. I would then like to pursue my master's and take it all the way up to my doctorate. 

I’m not going to stop here. The wings Ivy Tech Indy has given me – trust me – I’m going to fly now.

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.