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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.

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  • Stories like
    these should motivate anyone. A strong family is always great. Jamal
    Abdullahi sacrificed a great deal for his family. He worked hard, he
    never gave up, and he is a strong father. His daughter is not only very
    intelligent, but she congratulated his father too which is very special. We
    have to remember that our accomplishments in life have been readily impacted by
    the assistance, the encouragement, and the inspiration from others. Sister Biiftu
    Duresso deserves all of the praise for
    her accomplishments. Also, her dream of creating a clinic in Ethiopia is an
    excellent goal to pursue. Being involved in the medial industry is one of the
    most important occupations that anyone can have. I send congratulations to
    Sister Biiftu Duresso.

    • Kamala Jones

      I agree with everything you’ve said.

    • Thank you Sister. Stories like these refute the evil stereotypes about our people and it shows the power and love found in strong families.

    • binks

      Exactly Truth! This is why I always root for a strong family unit because they forced generational growth. Mr. Duresso is like a lot of great parents where he might not have achieved it himself but he made show his child did. I hope Biiftu Duresso fellows her dreams and continues to make her dad proud. As the saying goes, it doesn’t matter where you start but how you finish!

    • These are excellent words from you Sister. There are great, positive fruits which exist from a strong family like children being enhanced and communities further developing via many ways. Mr. Duresso is a great role model and his daughter Biiftu is expressing her gifts to the world. We all want the absolute best for her. Finishing the race is a great credo to live by indeed.

  • Okay, I dont if its my pregnancy hormones but this made me tear up, thanks for the beautiful story clutch, between the black church burnings, church shootings, and police harassment I was getting burnt out on the news.

  • Mary Burrell

    God bless them.

  • good luck and much success Duresso!