I am originally from Ethiopia. I came to the USA at first as an American Field Service (AFS), exchange student to attend Oberlin High School in Oberlin Ohio, in the early 1970s. As an AFS student, I lived with a host family and graduated from Oberlin High in 1971. Living with my host family and getting to know the Oberlin community, gave me an opportunity to learn the American way of life like no other experience would provide at that young age.

Upon completion of my AFS year, I returned to Ethiopia and joined Haile Selassie University (now, Addis Ababa University). However, due to student’s demonstration for political reform, the government closed the university after my first semester. I then returned Ohio to attend Case Western Reserve University where I received my undergraduate and graduate education. I am currently a Senior Engineer at United Technologies Aerospace System, Landing Gear.

Growing up, I had a burning desire to come to America. My interest was ignited and inspired by my Peace Corps teachers ever since the 5th grade, especially my science, English and history teachers. I was fascinated by the stories they would tell us about the USA, their own personal stories, the history and culture of America and Americans. My science and history teachers used to tell us how education was important to the development of a nation and betterment of society.

I believed then as I do now that our world is what we help to make it. The first contribution that one can make to one’s nation is by getting a good education. Inspired by the thoughts and ideas that had been instilled in me by my teachers; I was planning to get an education in the USA and return to contribute to my homeland at the time… However, in the mid seventies, while I was still in school at CWRU, the Ethiopian government was overthrown and the military took over and the country got transformed to a socialist state.

I was conflicted about my original plan to return upon completion of my higher education under that circumstance. During that time, I was comforted and supported by many people I had befriended in Cleveland area, in school and out in the community. The U.S government allowed all Ethiopians to stay in the country indefinitely. The rest is history.

I have lived in the in Cleveland area for over 4 decades, married with two successful children in their mid thirties born and raised in Cleveland, proud of their heritage as well as for being Americans with all its privileges. I am a Board member of the Menelik Foundation in Cleveland and an active member of the core group that has helped establish a Sister Cities agreement between the city of Cleveland and Bahir Dar, Ethiopia in 2004.That year, for the first time in history, Ethiopia runners participated in the Children’s Olympics in Cleveland. In addition, I am a member of the board of the International Community Council and Worldwide International Network (ICC-WIN) of Cleveland Ohio in which 121 countries are represented. I have served as the President of the Northeast Ohio Ethiopian Community Association (NEOECA), President of the Ethiopian Cleveland Connection (ECC) and one of the five founding Board members of The Society of Ethiopians Established in the Diaspora (SEED) which gives scholarships to outstanding high school graduates future leaders and encourages good citizenship, community service to American born kids of Ethiopian heritage as well as honors and awards adults as role models to the students on the same stage, annually since 1993.

Cleveland is a hidden treasure. If you are interested in good education, raise a family, secure good jobs and enjoy affordable living and lifestyle, Cleveland should be your destination, no matter where you come from. The universities, International Cultural Gardens (unique in the nation), the various and diverse ethnic organizations, and the diversity of the people in it are testimony to Cleveland’s’ welcoming tradition.

It is important for Cleveland to continue to attract people from all over the globe. In my view, inclusion or diversity means creating an environment or space that is designed to accommodate and benefit from various people including those with different ideas, perspectives, genders, religions and cultural backgrounds. Today’s immigrant is tomorrow’s asset for the City of Cleveland. I have seen Ethiopian immigrants come to Cleveland with nothing and now have successful businesses in health care, transportation, real estate. They are Engineers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, professors, students, blue-collar workers; serve in the Military etc. giving back to the Cleveland Community and the nation.

Immigrants from other states need to be informed of what the city and the state of Ohio have to offer thru an outreach programs. They can be reached more effectively thru their churches, mosques, community organizations in the US as well as thru their embassies and country representatives and universities in homelands.

If the city or Global Cleveland collaborates with the various organizations within the city that already exist such as ICC_WIN, which is connected to over 120 ethnic communities, attract, welcome and retain immigrants, the future of our City will be leading example for the rest of the nation.