I was named after Joseph, the son of Jacob, who went through many obstacles and ended up saving his family from a famine. Like Joseph, I feel that I have a responsibility of carrying my family out of poverty.
I was born in Ethiopia and my family lived in a small, poverty stricken neighborhood for the first eight years of my life. My parents were barely able to support our family with low salaries. They immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 searching for a better life for the family, but they had to leave my siblings and me in Ethiopia. Life without our parents was tough because my siblings and I had very little financial support. Some days, food and water were scarce. I attended school but stopped going to school when I was in the second grade to take care of my older brother, who was sick after our parents left. Despite my absence from school, I borrowed my friend's notebooks to teach myself what they had learned.
Besides money, I felt a lack of parental love and nurturing. I was too young to understand their reasons for leaving and felt that my parents had abandoned us. I remember one day as I walked to school, I saw a woman that looked like my mother. I chased after her thinking that my mother was back. I can still remember the way my heart thumped with delight as I ran past my school in pursuit of my “mother”. I caught up with her and tried to shout out her name but she did not turn back.
Although it was a very difficult not having my parents around, the experience made me more independent and looked to myself to overcome the obstacles I faced.
My siblings and I came to the U.S in 2002. I was grateful that I had an opportunity at a better education. Fitting in with my peers became harder since I did not know how to speak English. To avoid being teased and to succeed in school, I taught myself how to speak by watching Sesame Street videos and repeating every new word. I spent my lunch time practicing vocabulary with my teacher. In a matter of months, I became fluent.
My family placed a lot of expectations for me to succeed academically and to get a good job after college. I worked hard in high school to let my parents know that I was working to fulfill their expectation as well as their sacrifices.
Looking back at the struggles that I faced during my childhood, I realized they made me stronger and more determined to pursue my goals. The Fulfillment Fund has helped me foster my goal for my next journey onto college. My mentors and advisors played a key role in my high school year by organizing my time so that I stayed focused on my work. They showed me that education has great value and that success is the product of using education wisely.
Yoseph began attending University of California, San Diego in fall 2012.