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Hodan Aden receives school board's "I Believe" award

Rochester City Newspaper
Friday, January 24, 2014

Sometimes it takes seeing the world through someone else’s eyes to shake you out of your bubble. Hodan Aden, a young lady from Somalia, was that someone for me last night.

Aden was recognized by the Rochester school board for her amazing achievements while overcoming obstacles that most of us could hardly imagine.

When Aden was just a child in Somalia, her family had to flee war and civil unrest that was consuming her homeland. Dressed in her native garb, Aden talked about moving into a refugee camp in neighboring Ethiopia where her family lived for 17 years.

Life in the refugee camp was brutal and dangerous. Aden, like most children, spent her days finding food and necessities to survive. Going to school wasn’t even a consideration.

About a year and a half ago, Aden and her family were able to relocate to the US. She enrolled in the Rochester school district’s International Academy not knowing a word of English. And she had no formal education.

Where do you begin when you know so little and everything around you is completely unfamiliar? Though Aden and her family were no longer struggling to survive in a camp with other displaced people, adapting to life in the US has come with its own struggles.

Still, Aden has managed to learn to speak and write English in a year, and she’s pursuing her education at Rochester International Academy. Thank you, Hodan Aden and Rochester International Academy teacher Michelle Valentino, for shaking me out of my bubble and reminding me that anything is possible.



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