Strength and determination sum up the drive to succeed for Heritage senior Weini Kelati Frezghi, according to her guidance counselor Cheryl Barr.
“When I first met Weini, she stated her primary goals in life were to graduate from high school, graduate from college with a nursing degree, and train for the Olympics,” Barr said.
These are challenging goals for anybody, but even more so for a teenager who risked everything three years ago to leave her family to ask for asylum in the United States.
“I came here to change my life,” Weini said of her decision to leave her native African country of Eritrea.
Acclimating to a new culture and new language has been tough. Her English teacher, Colleen Dobbs, said Weini has been an inspiration considering all the struggles she has had to endure in her high school career.
She’s asked to take courses and pass state-mandated tests that cover topics her classmates have studied most their life, Dobbs said. “This, coupled with the addition of the newness of the language, creates an incredibly difficult task for Weini academically. Yet, Weini never complains or gets discouraged. She simply continues to work hard in school and tries to improve.”
Her work ethic extends beyond the classroom. Her junior year, Weini helped take Heritage to the state championship in cross country and, what’s more, shattered the national indoor track 5K record, running it in 16:08.33. As if that wasn’t enough, she also holds down a part-time job. “I manage my time,” Weini says matter-of-factly.
Weini received a scholarship to attend the University of New Mexico where she hopes to check the latter two goals off her list: a college degree and an Olympic career.
Of what she’s achieved so far and more on the horizon, Weini said, “This is a dream come true.”
—Kara C. Rodriguez