Dallas ISD student who immigrated from Ethiopia a few years ago heading to West Point
DALLAS - A Dallas ISD student is ready to serve the country that gave him so much in return.
He's graduating from W.T. White High School and headed to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
It's an enormous accomplishment for a teen who immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia just a few years ago.
Hamersen Bekele had never traveled outside of his country until he moved to Dallas with him mom, who is from the U.S. He did not know a word of English.
Now, he's headed to West Point, the first student from W.T. White High School to do so in more than a decade.
Friday was the last day of class for Dallas ISD.
Inside Major Nebyou Yonas' ROTC class at W.T. White, students were celebrating one of their own.
Graduating senior, Bekele is headed to the United States Military Academy at West Point in July.
It's a huge accomplishment for the 18-year-old who moved to Dallas with his mom in 2019 from Ethiopia.
He recalled the "culture shock."
"Had no idea of outside life outside of my country," Bekele said.
A few weeks into his freshman year, Bekele met Major Yonas, who is the senior Marine instructor at the school.
The chance encounter would change his life.
Both moved to Texas from Ethiopia when they were in their teens.
"The first word he said was what’s up in my language, and I was like, what?! Wow. I was so happy," he recalled.
"It is eerie how similar our stories are alike," Yonas said.
Yonas encouraged Bekele to join the ROTC class.
It's an elective at the school.
Bekele began to flourish.
"He was a guy who worked hard. Like, you know, if I give him a 95, he'll say, ‘What do I have to do to make this 100,’ and if I say do 100 push-ups, he'll go and do that," Yonas said.
Bekele's English began to improve, and the ROTC program gave him confidence.
Bekele is the first W.T. White student to attend West Point in more than a decade. He recalled the moment he was accepted.
"I ran and told my mom, told major, it was amazing," Bekele said.
After serving his country, Bekele wants to be a doctor and help people back home in Ethiopia, where his father still lives.
"I want to invest in my country, Ethiopia, invest in technology," he added.
Major Yonas knows there's no stopping what he can do.
"He's got the drive he will work hard," Yonas said. "I am very proud, beyond."
Bekele said the hardest part will be leaving his mother behind in Dallas.
His father wasn't able to make it to his high school graduation, but plans to be when his son graduates from West Point.