Mahamed’s Story: Part 3 (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Date: May 28, 2011

Guest blogger:  Maryann Moll, Teacher, Ombudsman Arizona Charter East

Read Mahamed’s Story:  Part 1

Read Mahamed’s Story:  Part 2

I asked him to come outside to talk with me. I took his hands, looked straight into his eyes and told him that, as an American, I could not conceive how difficult his childhood experience had been. I told him it was time for good things to happen to him and informed him that the legislature’s decision meant he was exempt from the AIMS test requirement.

He began to cry, and as his body wracked with sobs, I could see the tension leave his body. He threw his arms around me and said, “I love you, I love you, I will never forget you.” My own sobs began. What a sight we must have been! He, well over six feet tall and me at five feet one inch. We were holding on to each other for dear life, crying like babies.

At that moment the torch was passed. He took the torch of hope and determination into his own hands, and I let go. He finished his work for his credits two days before winter break. He told me that he would miss me, and I told him I would miss him, too, as I would not have anyone to yell at anymore. He laughed so hard; I thought he would fall off his chair. He assigned his pal as my next target, and we all had a good laugh.

I warned the other teachers to be ready to hold on to me at graduation, as I was sure to be a puddle when this young man, who had come from so far away and worked so hard finally received his diploma. Strangely enough, that did not happen. Even when, along with his diploma, we learned he had earned the President’s Award for academic achievement. I stood in awe of Mahamed in his shirt, tie, cap and gown. What a journey it was.

He then walked over to us, thanked the other teachers from the center, put his arms around me and told me he loved me. The other teachers heard him, and they all began to cry.

The undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates from the state call me teacher. However, that is really not the case. Mohamed has been my teacher. Although he doesn’t hold a Ph.D., or any of the other post-graduate degrees held by many of my professors, Mohamed taught me about overcoming adversity, determination, perseverance and faith. He taught me by example, and he touched my heart. I hope that I have learned his lessons well. It was a privilege and blessing to have him in our center for those three short semesters.

I have never been more proud to be an American as I did while having the opportunity to work with this young immigrant.

Epilogue: Some of Mahamed’s friends from our local tight-knit Somali community recently told me that Mohamed has been promoted at his job at the airport and is taking some courses at Phoenix College. It was only two-and-a-half years ago that he barely understood any English. Four years from now, he will be able to become a U.S. citizen, and I will be able to say, “Welcome HOME, my fellow American, welcome HOME.”

Maryann Moll
East Charter

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