Sadiya Buta

[cnn-photo-caption image=

caption=”Sadiya Buta, 15, is getting attention for much more than what she wears on the tennis court.”]
It’s 100 degrees in Arizona, but that doesn’t keep Sadiya Buta off the court. She is part of one of the top doubles teams in her high school’s division. Like her teammates, she is clad in her school’s team shirt and skirt, but Sadiya also wears an extra layer of pants, a long sleeve shirt and a hijab, as part of her traditional Muslim beliefs.

The 15-year-old is looked at like a phenom in the sport, only picking up a racket for the first time last year. Her family recently came to Tucson, Arizona from a refugee camp in Kenya. Before leaving the camp in Dadaab, Kenya, Sadiya’s family was forced out of war-torn Somalia. The International Rescue Committee resettled Sadiya, her 5 siblings and her parents in the United States.

The adjustment for “Sandy,” as her friends call her, was a challenge, to put it mildly. She acts as a translator for her family, as they all learn English and her parents look for work. Despite the obstacles, Sadiya does whatever it takes to tackle her home life with school work and tennis, including waking up at 3 a.m. to complete her homework to keep up her better-than-perfect GPA. She admits that people at school made fun of her at first, but she paid no attention, determined to keep her eye on the ball.

Update: Watch the Live interview

This entry was posted in Amazing talents, Athletes, Stereotype busters, Under 20. Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Sadiya Buta

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Sadiya Buta – Young People Who Rock - Blogs [] on

  2. Miso Amy Choi says:

    Are there times for you that you want to just give up and wish that you were living someone else’s life?

  3. Mohamed says:

    Hay sandy! How long have you been in the US from Dadaab camps and how faster have u adopted life in the United States?

  4. Katie says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. Sadiya, you are truly an inspiration! My question for you is what got you interested in playing tennis?

  5. Erika says:

    What helped you the most in trying to assimilate into the US culture but at the same time stayig true to your Muslim beliefs?

  6. Rohit says:

    Great to see how she is truly making the most of the opportunity her and her family have been given by the IRC, to come to America, while continuing to be herself.

  7. Caroline says:

    You go girl! Keep your head up, and you will go places. Very proud of you!

  8. Dorsey says:

    What a great story! Glad to hear she’s rocking on the academic side as well as with the tennis. It’s seems to be what’s missing with so many young athletes. I’m amazed that she’s only been playing for a year. Judging from the photo, it looks like she’s got a pretty solid 2-handed backhand. Better than mine, and I’ve been working on it for (ahem) a while.

  9. Dorsey says:

    What a great story! Glad to hear she’s rocking on the academic side as well as with the tennis. It seems to be what’s missing with so many young athletes. I’m amazed that she’s only been playing for a year. Judging from the photo, it looks like she’s got a pretty solid 2-handed backhand. Better than mine, and I’ve been working on it for (ahem) a while.

  10. Yussuf says:

    WOW what a great story….teens in America need to look up to someone like SADIYA . Teens wine too much here in the US.

  11. Juan says:

    Though your picture is from a long shot of you, it is absolutely beautiful. Keep up the good work academically, and play the game as the Willam sisters have as champions. You go girl!

  12. Pam Larrick says:

    What an amazing and remarkable young woman. She is truly an inspiration. The question I would like to have Sadiya answer is “Where does she get her strength, her resilience?”

    I also applaud the IRC for supporting young people like Sadiya as they make the transition from what must often be “hell on earth” to a new life full of promise and dreams.

  13. Renee Shraier says:

    Hello Sadiya!

    We have been following your story here at Amphi Middle and are very proud of you! I hope to be watching you live on Friday with my English class. Do you remember middle school? Can you speak to the middle school English Language Learners and give them any advice?

    Thank you for being such a good role model and inspiration to other students – especially refugees and immigrants.

    You rock!

    Ms. Shraier

  14. Kiki Fox says:

    Sounds like one of the hard-working youths Obama mentioned in his “dangerous speech” yesterday. I know at least one of the teachers of this particular student and they are all very proud of her.

  15. robin says:

    Great! Though a muslim,this girl is fighting to survive like anyother American kid. Wish all the best to her.

  16. EZ says:

    wow, kudos to Sadiya. I was in her same boat (refugee) and knew exactly what she went through. I used to stayed up many late night to finish my homework (an hour of homework would take me 3 hours to complete. Dictionary was my best friend at one point), worked many odd jobs to support myself and my family, took me extra few years to complete my college degree but I was never gave up

    Keep up the good work Sadiya and make your parents proud

  17. Mayssa says:

    Wow-this really is the best country! Look at the great opportunities being presented to this exceptional young lady. Best of luck Sadiya with tennis and everything else!

  18. Saciido Shaie says:

    Hi! This is great! I am more than honor to see this report! There are many kids who are like Sadia! Who are determine to be successful whether intentionally or naturally. However, our society would not let them succeed in terms of how the American mainstream need to motivate these kids! Specially the Media! truly the media has a huge impact on the success of these kids! these are the kinds of report we need, to know or to hear the stories of the kids like Sadia! I came to America from Somalia and I have been through most of what Sadia has been through! in terms of the challenges she face! The lack of language, the different cultures, Religion, System! However I was just like Sadia Determine and hard working! I feel like if the media report stories like this! it can motivate many kids regard less of where they are from! Kind of like hey “If Sadia Can do it, So can you.”


  19. said says:

    The sadiya story is very amazing because we share same story. i hope she will continue in her education so some day she may help those who are still in dadar refuge camp suffering in third wolrd country. i wish you a great succes!!!

  20. Maweel says:

    She is an inspiration to young new immigrants. Really amazing talent. She should keep her head hight, its normal for kids to tease something they are unfamiliar with.

    Please ask Sadiya what motivates her and her plans for the future. Good luck with tennis.

    Watch out William sisters.

  21. Ken Briggs says:


    Congratulations on this recognition of your courage, determination, and willingness to put forth such effort to pursue your learning and your interests. I’m glad you enjoy tennis; it’s a sport you can enjoy your whole life.

    Best wishes,

    Ken Briggs
    IRC Tucson

  22. Binu says:

    These are the people who become heroes. They do not use their troubles as excuses, they make the best of it and stay focused. These are the role models our kids need who complain too much about not having enough. Make the best of what you can and that is what counts in the end not whining.

  23. Ms. Sharp says:

    Hi, From Ms.Sharp and keep up the good, work, I always knew that you would go far. I saw you getting your computer on Tv also, already a big star, and you deserve it.

  24. Mrs. Spears says:

    Hi Sadiya, It is great reading about you. I know you must be good at tennis because you are good at many things, not because you have a natural talent (which you could) but because of how hard you work at giving everything you do YOUR VERY BEST. You are determined to learn all you can and challenge educators to teach you everything they know, whatever the cost. I remember you being at my classroom door before I ever got my first cup of coffee and being one of the last to leave afterschool tutoring. God bless you. Take a little time to enjoy yourself!

  25. tom says:

    How hard is it to be a teenager here when you come from another country? Can American teenagers do anything to help you and others like you?

  26. Right to Left says:

    Get this girl some sponsors, tennis needs kids like this!!!! Go Sadiya!

  27. Sammy says:

    Hey, Sadiya, congratulations on all your successes both athletically and academically! With the U.S. Open being played right now, I was just wondering if there’s a particular pro player that’s influenced your game. Who are you rooting for to win the Open?

  28. Hersi says:

    Well done sadiya , you are truly inspiration. Just imagine being in one year from refugee camp and already achieved both academically and sorts. Keep the dream and one day will be number one in the world.

  29. antiWelfare says:

    those lazy people (on welfare) got a lot to learn from this young refugee girl (or many other refugees). They came here with emptied hands, had to learn a new culture and language but yet they still work hard and stay off the welfare system. Welfare for LIFE is bad for this country.

  30. Bashir Muse says:

    It is wonderful and great young lady, I know how she felt many dark nights in the Dhadhab refugee camp, it is very hard circumastance of human life, she inspired the other young immigrants came to United States, to address the challenges faced in this new culture and enviroment, what is need is hard working, committment, to assimilate this diversy American people

  31. Nicole Lapin says:

    Looking forward to getting your questions to Sadiya tomorrow! Thanks for chiming in, as always 🙂

  32. Whitney says:

    Sadiya you are absolutely amazing and such an inspiration to many people on campus. It was such an honor to teach you Algebra last year because your hard work and determination became such a bright light in our classroom. I know you will continue to do amazing things, both academically and athletically, for many years to come. I honestly can’t wait to see what you become! I’m very proud of you. 🙂

  33. fardosa buta says:

    Thankz for all those nice comment people.
    this is sadiya, her old sister, am soooooooo proud of my sister to be this stage that she is in today. I know whatever we been in the past 18years. about the comps and in here America, for the last two years which our 2years end sept 6,2009.
    well been in America was hard at the first time we come here. while we used our hard-work to reach succeess as we in today and hoping to be more better one day one time.
    no matter whatever it take to be succeed you can always do whatever that works.
    well i start high at Amphi High school for only afew months and i want to Desert View High schoolfor a full year and i Graduated at May 26,2009. DVH is the most great school i have been in since i come Here, and am wishing the best for all the teacher who teach that school, i also got the opportunity to get a laptop that i even use it now in the college to do all of my homework THANKS the sponsors for the best work you did for us and also thanks to the teachers couse we wouldn’t do it without of you guys.
    now I’m at pima community college taking Dental Hygiene and i want to transar to university.
    when i remember back in the comp of Daddab i feel to cry for whatever we was been in the side of the situation. life living in the comps was so really hard, i remember some of my teachers use to say to me” Fardosa, Keep working hard and you will get to succeed one day and get anything that you want,”
    it was been true that live needs to work-hard no matter what it takes.
    i hope that many teens that i know will do that too.
    but living in America isn’t easy for the people who has different religious and culture too. i got many people who make us fun for wearing the cloths and even ask us don’t you feel hot couse Arizona is the most hot plece. my answer to them was NO!!! i dn’t feel it.
    well now everything is good and we adopted the life of America and we believe that we will do nice and hard-work more.
    THANKS ONCE again to all of you.
    thanks to God who give us this opportunity that we got.
    couse i know so many teens around the world who doesn’t have the opportunity to get Education. like somalia and even some other countries i hope them too to get education and everything that works.


  34. Adan A. Buta says:

    Empowering & Thankful
    Dear sister! first of all a very big hallah to you the court queen and hope you are doing great by the moment.congradulations once again for opening your self gates to your legion of fans around the world.thats history in the making and you are playing a very inspirational role many ladies of your age has never achieved. Hope that all is well with you. I would like to address how excited to have you as my sister. Is not simply an inspiration to you? It is an inspiration to me as well. Why, because I was able to openly express myself. The weight of the questions that I am asked during my stay with friends. It is amazing to be able to see on newspapers and websites. As a child, we all have dreams & I am fortunate that I have been able to live my dreams. the path of the just shines brighter & brighter so as you always do well your integrity shall speak boldly on thy behalf as well. You’re a true champion on duty & off the court sowing seeds that will grow throughout many generations & bring forth a great increase.everything starts with a thought then follows a picture plus images then ideas & methods. What makes a great chanpion of your professionalism when you get the right thought with a picture you run with it & follow through with an expression of thy heart which produces awesome actions that changes not only thy game but thy self. Where people better take you more seriously. A female eagle does not avoid storms but rises above them & fly over them every other bird fly to get away from the storm. But when your fearless & bold & always aware nothing by any means can distract you…i may not be with you at this moment but i’ll keep you in my prayers both of you as your unique originals & not copies setting a standard for many Generations to follow God Bless Your Hearts & Your Love Ones Also….I have few more goals that I would like to accomplish. I am just getting started.

  35. Emmanuel says:

    How inspiring and heartwarming. Thanks to Sadiya for her determination and hard work, and thanks to CNN for giving a more human, positive, and real image of muslims and refugees. I hope that in time, we can enroll Sadiya and people like her to rebuild Somalia.

  36. Steve says:

    You rock! Keep up the good work and good luck at Wimbledon and the US Open!!!

  37. Kareem says:


    Two questions…
    What has inspired you to wear the Hijab both off and on tennis court and Do you think faith (being a Muslim teenage girl) and Somali tradition would effect you from playing professional tennis one day?

  38. haines says:


    As always you made your coach and teacher proud again today, not just on the court and in the classroom, but as an inspiration to others. Your quiet confidence and determination speaks volumes about what young people can accomplish if they strive for excellence, no matter what hardships they face.

  39. Julie Hains says:

    You are an amazing person, so talented in so many ways. Your spirit is evident in all that you do. You have such a great work ethic, always trying your best, and questioning everything to gain understanding about your studies and the world. I know that many, many students look up to you as you have overcome so many obstacles in life to get to where you are today. I am honored to be your teacher and Desert View High School is so very lucky to have such a wonderful role model for all the kids here.
    Mrs. Hains

  40. Abdullahi (amerikan) says:

    Bravo sadia,

    An indication that we’ve got talents in Dadaab.

  41. Barbara Moon says:

    I am not a young person, but I know Sadiya, and I can tell you that she is an amazing person. The three adult women in her family are my friends, and they are all wonderful! The US is lucky to have them.

  42. Mohamed Saadaq says:

    SACDIYA BUTA. well done….you are so talent and I hope that you’ll do in the future all your best as you did past. I am not asking you any question as everything seems to me clear, but to advice you one thing… do what you thought is right and best, and avoid some comments to prevent your way

  43. Sarha Beltran says:

    Hey Sadiya,
    I am very lucky to have you as a friend and I wish you the best of the best…ALWAYS 🙂

  44. Karla says:

    Sandy, You are truly an inspiration.

  45. Susan says:

    Very nice. Why don’t you raise $800,000 for the needy in your own country. Charity begins at home!

  46. suleiman hussein ahmed says:

    mansha allah, congratulation for your inspiration as you inspired by your parent and as well your motivation to forword for your study as internationally, dear sister of mine, as a muslim am sure we are sister’s and brother’s and am so glad that you are in this stage, when i did see you on the CNN, it was unbelieveable to me, but what i did say is that MANSHA ALLAH.
    beause u are so brighter so clever so proud of your self, and as well we are so proud of you sadia but, thorough from here am dedicating to you ma congratulation, for your hard work, WELL DONE, sadia but am suleiman hussein if you recognise me, i think so you will, am so happy when i did watched that from the televtion, keep well and go forword untill the end of life, am sure you gonna be the president of somali woman if you continue.

  47. :) says:

    Hey Sadiya!!!! I had no idea you were interviewed!! See you at school!!

  48. maryam yazeed says:

    Hey Sadiyah
    mashall allah you will do very good
    iam a muslim as well and i play softball its kinda hard but my team support me alot. good luck.

  49. Gio says:

    Sadiya! I’ll see you during tennis season! ur famous!

  50. Early.F says:

    Hey i would like to say i how great it is to see you out side being active in a 100 degress wether. It kinda of like me walking up a hill in El Dorado Hill in 100 degress wethers even though you should not being doing it . I like your devotion toward what you like it kind like me and walking i love it along with run and jogging.

  51. ruby says:

    truly i am elated and proud of Sadiya…me also being a Muslim have been through those dark times of being picked on because i was muslim. So i do know how Sadiya has felt and i am proud that she didn’t let their ignorant comments bother her. I hope that you and your family live a better life in America and experience as much as you can and always follow your heart. There is no gurantee of a clear road with out any obstacles but just remember to stay stong and go around them. INSHALLAH….YOU WILL ALWAYS DO GOOD.

  52. michaela says:

    I’m really glad that you did care and listen to what people where saying about you when you moved to a new school. High schoolers can some times be really careless and only want to put people down. But the truth is their just scared of new things. and don’t care what peopel say becasue if they don’t like you becasue what you look like well there just missing out on another great preson in the world.

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