Home   Testimonial   Speech by CRLS Senior, Betelhem Tesfaye, at 2015 Mack I. Davis II Award & Recognition Event

Speech by CRLS Senior, Betelhem Tesfaye, at 2015 Mack I. Davis II Award & Recognition Event

When I was 12 years old my mother left our home in Gondar, Ethiopia, to look for work in the United States. She left me in charge of running our house, managing the family’s rental properties, and taking care of my eight year old sister Yordanos. Suddenly instead of playing tag in the grass with my friends, I was cooking meals, taking care of our garden, collecting rents, feeding our dog, and giving Yordi her daily bath.

I cried for three days after my mother left. But then I remembered that I had responsibilities. I didn’t cry again until I saw my mom at Addis Ababa airport after four years of loneliness. She’d come back to bring us to America.

Our new lives in America were happy and challenging. I dreamed of becoming a doctor. But my new school frightened me. I didn’t know English. I didn’t have any friends. And I didn’t know it could be so cold.

The first person I met at School was my great guidance councilor Mr. Weathersby. He talked with me like a friend and told me not to be scared of anything. He introduced me to all my teachers and afterschool he took me to the tutoring center. I felt better when I saw the tutoring center.

Ms. Meshon , the tutoring center manager, was always helpful. She loved that I wanted to learn. I came there every day, and every day she found me a tutor. I can’t even count how many tutors I’ve had.

My first class in Cambridge, and in America, was ESL with Mr. Mish. I had never been treated so nicely by a teacher. He checked my homework everyday. He even gave me binders, a pen, and my first book in English: The House on Mango Street.

My very first tutor in English was Howie who helped me write my stories. And my first tutor in math was Mr. Duche. I went to him with all kinds of questions. One day he told me how he’d come to America from Zimbabwe. Hearing his story made me feel strong.

Meanwhile, my tutor Allen helped me in algebra and geometry. He worked with me for more than two hours at a time. And he never got tired.

One day I heard an announcement about the CSV College Ready center. I was just a sophomore, but I went anyway. There I met Laura who runs the program. She was happy to have me. We talked about all kinds of things: my studies, my family, and my plans for college. I felt friendly with her and loved her smile. Soon she introduced me to Judy.

Judy is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. For me she’s a teacher, a tutor, a friend, and a member of my family. She taught me how to write a proper essay, with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. She was always there for me. After a year, thanks to Judy, I was able to write an essay by my self.

Barbra was my US history tutor. She told me to call her anytime including weekends. And believe me, I did. I also worked with JR, who is multilingual and likes to work with bilingual students like me.

When I think about friendly greeting and conversations I remember David Smith my reading and writing tutor. He likes to work with me and all my Ethiopian friends. David taught me the difference between riding IN a car and riding ON a bus. Between going TO school and staying AT home.

In my junior year, I worked with Sam for pre calculus. He was in college. Sometimes he had to stay up all night in the lab. But still came to help me. Right now, Fred is helping me with AP statistics. It was helpful when he suggested drawing pictures when I read word problems.

When I think about my college acceptances and scholarship I’ll never forget Ken Shulman, my college ready tutor. Ken taught me how to be a professional writer. He helped me with my application essay which many people thought was amazing. He’s also helping me in AP biology. Ken showed me how many English words come from Greek and Latin. Like “philosophy”. Which is one of my favorite words. Because it means “the love of knowledge.”

My life has been an amazing journey. Not just from Ethiopia to America. But also from Amharic to English. In three years I progressed from ESL classes to honors and advanced placement. Each time I reached a new level, I wondered if I could do the work. Then I would think of my time alone in Ethiopia.

Now, I am president of the Ethiopian club. I tutor students. I am going to Colby Sawyer College and received a full, four-year scholarship. And I’m on my way to reaching my lifelong dream to become a doctor. I feel sad when I think about leaving Cambridge but I hope one day I will be back to volunteer myself. I am grateful to the Cambridge Public Schools, to Cambridge school volunteers and most of all to my mom for bringing my siblings and me to America. I have no words in English to express my feelings, so I’ll say it in my native Amharic. Keleb Amesegnalew. Which means thank you from the bottom of my heart.