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September 23, 2018

After leaving Iran for a better life, this mother and son achieved success in the United States with more than a little help from JCCC.

Behdad Miremadi, MD, and his mother, Rabeh Ghadiri, spent their first years in the United States taking classes at JCCC. Behdad is now a neurology resident at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Rabeh works full time at JCCC in the International and Immigrant Student Services office.

Walk through the doors of COM 306 and you’ll find Rabeh Ghadiri smiling at you from behind the front desk. The International and Immigrant Student Services (IISS) office coordinator has been part of the JCCC family since the fall of 2005.

Back then, she was a nontraditional student taking classes part time while taking care of two children. Just one year before, her family of four had immigrated to the United States from Iran.

But Rabeh wasn’t alone at JCCC. Her 22-year-old son, Behdad Miremadi, had enrolled shortly after they arrived in Kansas.

The mother-son duo earned associate degrees from JCCC. Rabeh went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Ottawa University in 2017. That same year, Behdad graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.

Today Rabeh offers encouragement and assistance to those who seek help from IISS.

“My position at JCCC is a great fit,” she says, “because it allows me to use my experience and journey to show students that with hard work and education they can improve their lives.”

A thousand miles away in Los Angeles, Behdad is in year two of a four-year residency with the esteemed neurology department at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

“Now I have the great pleasure to learn neurology from the best doctors in the world,” Behdad says. “I owe part of that to Johnson County Community College.”

Diversity and opportunity

For the family, leaving the only world they’d ever known for a new country wasn’t easy. The political and social freedom they could gain was worth the many sacrifices and hard work waiting for them in the United States.

When their petition to immigrate was approved in 2004, the family had to choose someplace to live. Rabeh’s husband, Masoud, had heard that Kansans were friendly and that Overland Park, in particular, had good schools.

Behdad had been halfway through his engineering studies when his family immigrated and was no longer sure he wanted to continue in that field. Family and friends recommended he check out the classes available at JCCC. What he found impressed him.

The campus was diverse, with a strong international student community. Behdad enrolled in classes just a few months after arriving in Kansas. He took several general education courses and explored new options.

“The professors were very knowledgeable, and I was able to transfer my credits easily to UMKC,” he says.

He graduated cum laude from UMKC and eventually decided to pursue a career in medicine. His time at JCCC, he notes, gave him a strong educational foundation that prepared him for the challenges of medical school.

Navigating a new future

Meanwhile, Rabeh was making her way in her new world. Living and working in the United States was not as easy as she had expected, despite having studied English throughout 12 years of school in Iran.

“When we first arrived, basic conversations were overwhelming,” she recalls. She soon found that communicating in a new world with limited language skills meant things could easily get missed in translation. 

Rabeh decided to join Behdad at JCCC and registered for the English as a Second Language program through Johnson County Adult Education.

“JCCC was perfect for me,” she says. “I could learn at my own pace. I could manage my work, family and studies.”

She enrolled part time and was offered federal work-study employment in JCCC’s Cultural Center (now the IISS), a job she held until she earned an associate degree in 2013. The work-study position had to end, but JCCC wasn’t quite finished with Rabeh.

A unique perspective

When a position opened up a few months after she graduated, Rabeh’s name was at the top of the list. In no time she was back behind the counter, helping immigrant students navigate the same paths she once walked.

“Entering an American community is challenging,” she says. “I always try to support the students and help them recognize their hard work will pay off. They have bright futures. I am honored and happy to be part of their destiny.”

Behdad and his mother aren’t the only Cavaliers in the family. Daughter Behnaz is currently enrolled at JCCC. She intends to study immigration law. Masoud also took classes and even worked at the Technical Support Center for more than eight years.

Achieving their dreams in their new country hasn’t always been easy, but together this family has made them come true.

Learn about JCCC’s other Adult Education opportunities.