Valedictorian gives graduation speech at school where dad is custodian

This year, the valedictorian of Wilson Magnet High School thanked her immigrant father — who also happens to be the supervising custodian of her school — for her success.

When Biiftu Duresso, an 18-year-old from Rochester, New York, graduated at the top of her class this past Saturday, she made it a point to thank all those who inspired her, including her father, Jamal Abdullahi, an Ethiopian immigrant who works at her school.

“My parents Jamal and Zubaida made their way to Rochester, New York, from Ethiopia in the 80’s and 90’s,” Biiftu said in her speech. “They had the audacity to imagine something better for me and my siblings.”

Abdullahi grew up poor in Ethopia during a civil war, spent some time detained as a teen soldier and later escaped to Somalia. When he made it to America in 1983, he spoke no English and took odd jobs, eventually taking a part-time position as a custodian.

According to Democrat and Chronicle, as he moved up the ranks at his custodial job, he worked towards getting his GED and ultimately ended up getting both his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. His passion for education is what fueled him to push his children.

“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.”

His daughter Biiftu is headed to Columbia University’s Barnard College in the fall. She hopes to become a doctor and open a clinic in Ethiopia to help the people who are not as fortunate as her family.

“I know the feeling of struggle, I know how it feels and that’s why I am happy she is succeeding,” he said, beaming proudly.

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