The valedictorian of Wilson Magnet High School in Rochester, NY this year is thanking her immigrant father for her success, who also happens to be the supervising custodian of her school.
Biiftu Duresso will graduate at the top of her class Saturday. It’s the ultimate payoff for her father, Jamal Abdullahi, who immigrated to America on March 28, 1983. He fled his war torn country of Ethiopia.
“Oh my gosh. I wish I could write. I wish I could read and write,” said Abdullahi who didn’t learn to read until he was 17. Abdullahi remembers his first job earning $3.80 per hour as a dishwasher at the once Rochester Plaza Hotel, now the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
In 1986, he was hired as a custodian for the Rochester City School District. He moved up the ranks eventually becoming a supervisor. His determination also earned him a GED at Monroe Community College. He then went onto earn a college degree at SUNY Brockport College.
Abdullahi’s biggest joy in life is giving his children a life filled with opportunity that he only dreamed of. He describes his four children as, “normal American children who are different from my life that I used to lead. Not ignorant, not illiterate, not knowing where they go. Now, here, they are achieving. That’s the pride.”
“I tell them, ‘All I can do is to help you, but it is your future, you must help yourself,’” Abdullahi told Yahoo Parenting. “And I said that people respect those who have education, and it helps opportunities come up for you.”
“I know the feeling of struggle, I know how it feels and that’s why I am happy she is succeeding,” he told Yahoo Parenting.
Both father and daughter told 13WHAM it was a trip back to Ethiopia when Duresso was in middle school that inspired the valedictorian future aspirations. She said, “I know I want to go to med school, and I’m hoping to go back to Ethiopia. I’m hoping to open a clinic.” Doresso will attend Barnard College in the fall.