From Goats to Sprinting, Joyce Elgadi Has Made The Most Of Her Time At Highland


Joyce Elgadi mentors students in the 4-H robotics club as they prepare for a competition.

Emma Johnson, Editor-in-Chief

She runs track, programs robots, and codes short stories. She loves chemistry, takes classes at the University of Utah, and leads Highland’s International Club. If you’re not convinced yet that she has a Harry-Potter-esque time turner, she even trains goats for competition. She’s a Highland senior, an excellent student, and plans to study computer science in college.

She’s managed all these amazing activities for four years at Highland, but she has only lived in the United States for five.

Joyce Elgadi moved to Utah during her seventh-grade year with her mother, father, and four younger brothers. They immigrated from Cairo, Egypt, so that Joyce and her siblings could have more opportunities.

And it seems that finding opportunities is exactly what Elgadi has experienced.

As a student, Elgadi is hardworking, focused, and driven. She maintains a full schedule at Highland, which is something many high schoolers struggle with. Elgadi is also president of the International Club, which she runs with several of her friends. In the club, students can do a variety of activities to learn about different cultures.

The roughly 10 students in the club “get to know the world better and learn from each other,” Elgadi explained.

Outside of Highland, Elgadi has a very full schedule. After school, she often goes to the U of U to learn more about chemistry through the INSPIRE Leadership Collective. She also participates in a variety of clubs and organizations, mostly through the 4-H Youth Development Collective, a program that involves young people everywhere and serves as support for many refugees.

Three of the main activities she does are robotics, leadership groups, and goat training. For robotics, her team builds robots and codes them to complete specific tasks. These tasks will eventually be judged in competition. Elgadi was on the official robot-building team for several years, but now she is a mentor to help the younger kids know how to do it.

On the leadership teams, Elgadi and other students learned about public speaking and other leadership skills. She’s not in that club this year, but she has been for three years previously. Some of these strategies help her when running the International Club.

Perhaps the most unique activity Elgadi pursues is the goat club. She explained that each Utah 4-H Chapter, which are based on different counties, has a different animal that they train. There are horses, sheep, and in Salt Lake County, goats.

“Goats are nice. They are much easier [than sheep] because they learn really fast,” Elgadi said.

Each student in the club gets an individual goat to raise and train for market in 3-5 months. At the end of the season, each participant has to show their goat to a panel of judges, where they compete for awards and also for a buyer of the goat.

Elgadi described how the part of the process of selling the goat students train is very difficult because they make emotional connections to the goat over several months, then have to see it get sold and go away.

Lhaksam Choeden, Program Coordinator for the Salt Lake County chapter of 4-H, explained that Joyce is “really patient, quiet, and respectful, but if she has a question or needs help she’s not afraid to ask.”

With all these activities, it’s difficult to see a moment for Elgadi to ever find time for a break. Fortunately, she usually likes being busy and having a lot going on. After moving to the United States, she wants to take advantage of all the great support and opportunities. She appreciates all her extra clubs and support at Highland, especially from Highland’s family support coordinator Mindy Smith.

The activities are one thing Elgadi likes about Utah, as well as the different environment and how nice a lot of people are. However, it was difficult to relocate at first because “everything moved so fast,” Elgadi said.

There are several things Elgadi misses about Cairo, which is to be expected from a place someone has lived the entire beginning of their life.

“I miss the schools, my friends, and meeting a lot of new people,” Elgadi said.

She explained how many friendships in Egypt were more causal, and she could just show up at a friend’s house whenever she wanted. In Utah, things seem more formal, and she finds that more people expect you to make plans to hang out.

Another thing that’s noticeably different about Utah vs. Egypt is the dramatic change in seasons.

“It’s funny how the weather changes so fast” in Salt Lake, she said. In Cairo, Elgadi described how it was mainly hot and sandy, with a few months of more rainy weather each year.

Fortunately, Elgadi is still able to keep in touch with many of her friends and family via the internet and cell phones. She has a lot of extended family still living in Egypt and Sudan, but some family members might come to Utah to visit or even move here. Elgadi’s grandmother, specifically, is strongly considering living in Salt Lake soon, and perhaps more family members later.
And at the end of her senior year, Joyce will take a trip to Cairo to see everyone she misses. She’s very excited to go back home and reconnect with friends and relatives.

After this trip, Elgadi wants to keep living in Utah. She hopes to attend college at the University of Utah or Utah Valley, but she hasn’t figured out plans for that quite yet. She wants to study computer programming and find a career along that path. After graduating from Highland, she will still have a brother who attends the school as a sophomore, another brother in middle school, and twin brothers still in elementary.

They will have big shoes to fill, because Joyce is doing so many amazing activities. She has been able to use her resources absolutely to their full potential and accomplish so many impressive things. Elgadi surely will excel in college and set a wonderful example to her friends, family, and peers.