When you talk with Hamersen Bekele, you would never know that three short years ago he didn’t speak English. Now, the W.T. White High School graduate is going to the United State Military Academy at West Point.
‘It’s one of those really remarkable things,” W.T. White High School senior Marine ROTC instructor Nebyou Yonas said. “He grew up in the same exact village, learned how to swim in the same lake, decades apart … I see myself in him.”
Yonas and Bekele are both from Ethiopia. More than that, they are from the same village in Ethiopia.
“The first word he said to me was in my language,” Bekele said recalling Yonas asked him, ‘What’s up?’ “And I was so shocked!”
More than 8,000 miles from where he was born, Bekele found a mentor in North Texas that understood his Northeast African roots and the challenges he faced here in Texas.
“That’s one of the most amazing things that ever happened,” Bekele said. “I literally found a very large connection between him and me.”
Bekele learned to speak English by watching ‘Friends.’ He graduated sixth in his class and found a path to his future with the guidance of his mentor, Yonas, who encouraged him to try for West Point.
Bekele said he wants to see the world, just like his career military ROTC instructor.
“He literally came from the same background as me,” Bekele said. “So him achieving that makes me think I can achieve it too.”
“It’s pretty amazing,” Yonas said. “That’s the beauty of this country; it’s a small world after all.”
Bekele wants to go on to medical school and become a surgeon one day.