CULVER CITY — Fahad and Faisal Alnemary are twin brothers who studied together at Cal State Los Angeles. On May 22, they marched together across the commencement stage and received their doctoral degrees in special education.
Their education at Cal State L.A. prepared the brothers for their long-term goal of helping people with developmental disabilities in the Arab world.
“Without the mentorship we received at the university, we would never have accomplished all that we have done,” Faisal Alnemary said.
His brother Fahad added: “Cal State L.A. was an enriching environment where faculty and staff were really supportive of us as international students.”
For the twins, the Charter College of Education ceremony at Cal State L.A. was a proud moment in a journey that began years ago in their home city of Taif, nestled on the arid slopes of the Sarawat Mountains in Saudi Arabia.
Born to parents who never learned to read, the twins are the youngest of seven brothers and three sisters. As they got older, they became interested in autism.
While attending King Abdulaziz University, one of their professors suggested that they volunteer at the Jeddah Autism Center. They started working as teachers’ aides in 2004 at the center, and a year later they became special education teachers there.
With their increasing knowledge about autism spectrum disorder, they came to realize that they had grown up with a cousin who has autism.
The brothers graduated with bachelor of arts degrees in special education in 2006 from King Abdulaziz University, with a focus on autism and behavior disorders. They became teaching assistants at Taif University’s College of Education’s Division of Special Education, where they taught courses for undergraduate students.
In 2007, with the help of the Saudi government, the twins came to the United States and enrolled in an English language program. To learn English more quickly, they lived with two different host families, one in Riverside and the other in Irvine.
In 2008 they were accepted into the Cal State L.A. Special Education Master of Arts program.
Fahad graduated in 2011 with a master of arts in special education, with a focus on early childhood special education. Faisal graduated a year later with a master of arts in special education, with a focus on autism.
Because of their strong academic performance, the brothers were accepted in 2012 into the Cal State LA/UCLA Joint Doctoral (Ph.D.) Program in special education.
Faisal Alnemary also become a board certified behavior analyst and Fahad Alnemary expects to be certified within the next few months.
Their education has been supported by scholarships from the Saudi Arabian government and fellowships from the UCLA Graduate School of Education. The twins have also found time to take part in volunteer activities.
Fahad has been a trainer for the High Five Basketball League for Youth with Autism, while Faisal has provided behavioral consultation and parent training services for Palestinian parents and children with autism spectrum disorder.
After graduation, the brothers hope to pursue postdoctoral research in autism at a university in the United States and then return to Saudi Arabia, where they have faculty positions waiting for them. Their long-term goal is to contribute to improving research and care of individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities in the Arab world.
The brothers are married to women who are also twins, and they both have young children. The brothers are the first in their families to earn graduate degrees.
They credit the support of their families with helping them pursue and accomplish their educational goals, as well as the faculty and staff in the Charter College of Education with providing a supportive environment.