This Muslim Refugee From Ethiopia Has 2 Valedictorian Daughters

“It is a very wonderful day for me,” said the proud father, who has already seen two of his daughters become valedictorian in the school where he is a janitor.



Take that, Donald Trump.

A daughter of a Muslim refugee janitor is her school's valedictorian. What’s amazing is the fact that this isn’t the first time this monumental event has occurred in Jamal Abdullahi’s family.

His elder daughter was also a valedictorian. Both girls graduated with flying colors from the very same school where Abdullahi sweeps the floors.


In 2015, Biiftu Duresso, graduated from Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School in Rochester, N.Y., and credited her inspiration to succeed to her father, who is an Ethiopian immigrant. She has now finished two years at Barnard College in New York City.

Now, her younger sister has also followed in her footsteps and this year became a valedictorian herself. Dursitu Duresso graduated top of her class from the same school as her sister and is also looking to attend Barnard College’s medical school. The young woman credits her success to both her father and elder sister.

“I remember going there to drop her off and thinking: ‘That could be me,’” Dursitu said. “It's going to be me. ... I have to be No. 1, too.”

“It is a very wonderful day for me,” the proud father said.

As a teenager, Abdullahi was forced to work as a soldier in Ethiopia. He and his wife both escaped the war-torn country in 1983 and came to the United States.

Because he was uneducated, Abdullahi could only find a job as a janitor with the Rochester City School District. He then started studying and got his high school equivalency in 1990, an associate degree in 2003 and a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2008. The Ethiopian immigrant had aspirations to become a teacher but sacrificed them when he realized doing so would stop him from providing to his family.

Instead, he devoted his time in pushing his daughters to work hard — something that certainly paid off.

“This country made it possible for me when they took me as a refugee, and exposed me to a world that is big and better than where I used to live in many ways,” Abdullahi said. “That drove me to invest in my children.”

The hardworking immigrant also has two sons, aged 15 and 6. The elder son is entering Wilson’s IB program this fall while Abdullahi’s youngest child “is already reading a lot.”

“These children — and not just my children, but all children — can lead anywhere in the world,” he said. “We need to be the engine driving for their education. We need to advocate for our children.”

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters 

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