Yonas Desta, like many refugee students who have left their native homes to come to America, had to break through barriers on his path to academic success.
Yet this young man from Ethiopia kept up his ear-to-ear smile through all the language obstacles, cultural learning, and academic rigors for the past two years as he blazed a path to an early graduation from Cottonwood High School and a scholarship to an American university.
“He had an intrinsic motivation within him,” said Cottonwood High counselor Kami Sage. “He just grasped on to everything, and all his teachers loved him.
Yonas traveled to Iowa shorty after winter break to begin his college education on a full-ride track & field scholarship to William Penn University. Although the transition to higher education was swift, Yonas made sure to fill his high school schedule with classes like medical terminology and engineering in order to be better prepared for the future.
Many students like Yonas are pushing their way toward successful careers with the help of teachers, specialists, and counselors like Kami Sage. Their struggles are of a magnitude that many of us will never understand, but their determination sets an example for all of us to emulate.
“I always tell my students to focus on what they can control and they are able to make wise choices despite their challenges,” Kami said. “That’s heroic.”