Posted May 13, 2013

Debt free and with a job waiting, DC native is set to succeed

Ryan S. Brandenberg
When he moved to Philadelphia last year after completing an associate’s degree, one of the first things Fabien Navidi-Kasmai did was find a job delivering pizza so that he could make enough to pay for college without taking loans.

“I believe in making your own experience,” said Fabien Navidi-Kasmai, who says that years of planning and plenty of hard work have enabled him to graduate from college debt-free at only 20 years old.

When he moved to Philadelphia last year, one of the first things Navidi-Kasmai did was find a job delivering pizza at a shop in the city. He recalls how he would work straight through entire weekends, sleeping most nights in his car, to make enough to pay for college without loans.

“If I wasn’t in class, I was literally working,” said the media studies and production major, who admitted it has been a difficult sacrifice sometimes. But as a childhood cancer survivor, Navidi-Kasmai has faced his fair share of adversity, building up a kind of resistance to it over the years.

When the Washington D.C. native was 16 years old, he gave up his final two years of high school, foregoing traditions such as class trips and the prom for the opportunity to participate instead in his school’s early college program. Through the program, students receive both their high school diploma and associate’s degree by completing their last two years of studies at George Washington University.

Navidi-Kasmai said it was challenging at times to be one of the youngest people walking around the school’s campus. But in the end, the experience proved more than just a head start on college. “It taught me what I didn’t want,” he said.

Growing up in the city, Navidi-Kasmai said he was aware of a stigma associated with college students from the area, that they were often perceived as outsiders by locals. Part of the reason he was attracted to Temple, he says, is that it feels like part of the city.

“When I’m here, I feel like any other citizen of Philadelphia,” he added, “It’s when I leave the city that I become a Temple student again.”

It’s a mindset Navidi-Kasmai is particularly conscious of after an incident he experienced while working with the Blastech Associates contracting firm in Baltimore last summer. Employed as a day laborer painting a bridge, he suffered a serious injury when a rope got caught around his arm, yanking him eight feet in the air.

Despite his injuries, Navidi-Kasmai was eager to return to work. So the firm offered him an opportunity to help out in its office. After just a few weeks, Navidi-Kasmai’s supervisors were so impressed with him that he was promoted. By the end of the summer, he had an offer to work as project manager for the company. After graduation, he will move to Virginia to start work immediately on one of Blastech’s new projects. 

“In some ways I feel lucky, like I was picked up by that rope and placed in the right spot,” said Navidi-Kasmai, looking back on the injury that led him to a career. But he also acknowledges that Temple enabled him to build the skills necessary to go out and make something.

It’s hard to imagine a process that was started so long ago is about to come to an end, he said. But Navidi-Kasmai said he felt happy that it was finally here.

“It makes me feel like I could walk through the snow and slush delivering pizza for another winter,” he said, “That gritty attitude is what makes sunny days like today so worth it.”