Bilingual Instructional Aide, but I have my Masters in Architecture from UCLA.


Where are you from? 



What was it like growing up?

In Lebanon I was a very spoiled person. I had five sisters and I was the only son so I was treated like a king. Everything was good until the civil war started, my dad lost his business and we lost our home. My family sent us to France because they were sending everyone over 16 to the war. Once I got there, I couldn’t communicate with my parents because of the war and the phones split, I sent letters for one year and they just held them at the post office. I thought my parents were dead because they never responded. After the war my parents received 52 letters from me and they knew where I was. 


What brought you to Cleveland?

I escaped the war and went to France. I couldn’t find a job or opportunity there. I called a friend in Brooklyn, New York and he told me to come to America. I came in 1978 didn’t speak the language so I got lost at the airport. My wife had family in Cleveland so after 5 years we came here. We thought it was better for family and less expensive. I learned English in 6 months at NYU and then I got my bachelors in architecture and I worked for the city of New York for 6 years. While I was working, I saw an article in New York Times about UCLA and applied for my Masters and was denied entrance. So I moved to LA, stayed one year and applied again and was accepted. I worked there for 3 years and then my mom came to visit me from Lebanon she told me I had to come home. I went home she made me get married so that someone could carry the name and then we came back to Cleveland. I worked for Jacobs company and then did engineering, each time I started the company did layoffs. I then started my own business, then the economy hit and I lost my business. So I was at the eye doctor met someone who told me to apply for CMSD and I became a substitute teacher. After that I became a bilingual teacher. 


What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I was first really scared, I didn’t know any English. When I got lost I was in the police car. In order to find my lost baggage, the police had to drive me to a different terminal, so my first day that was my experience. I only had 300 ( three one hundred dollar bills) and I needed a quarter. I thought everything would be easy, easy to make money easy to work. It was not that way. People scared me saying people might rob you they might kill you, but everyone was welcoming. 


What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here? 

The biggest one was my background, I was worried what my parents would say if I met a girl. It was a challenge because back home kissing a girls hand or cheek was serious, here everyone did it. It made me feel guilty. I was a very religious person. I noticed my religion slowly started slipping away. I had to work so much I didn’t make it to church 3 times a day. Learning English was a challenge and then learning how to drive. I took public transit for so long that once I learned it was extremely hard. I lived in Brooklyn but I had to get to Long Island so I had to purchase a car. 


What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

When I got married and had kids, the relationships were challenges. The cultural differences like dating. The religion, money here controls everything- sometimes people take advantage of you even when you have a good heart. At home you help people without thinking, here they take advantage of you. Not always but sometimes. 


How have Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

Cleveland is a nice place. I was happy when I came here I started to compare living expenses between here and there. I forgot about the cheapness of things here but I did forget about the job market. I found myself to be over qualified and it was a challenge finding work. All this education and experiences. 


What do you love about Cleveland?

There is opportunity for everyone here, education no education, poor or rich there are options for you. You can have a nice life with little effort. Clevelanders are also nice people. 


What’s your favorite thing to do in Cleveland? 

I like to watch nature, I like the fall and spring seasons. I love rivers and the calmness. 


Why is it important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

It is very important because every time I greet someone I see them wearing my shoes. I remember myself when I didn’t speak the language and how hard it was to look for a job or something I lost. Besides their religion and who they are I treat everyone very well. I like to show people not to be afraid. It’s very important to the kids. 


Why is it important to travel abroad?

Because part of my study is to see different cultures. The more you see the more design ideas you have and you are open to all kinds of minds. When you know the culture you know how to deal with people. Culture is so important and traveling is a good experience, learning new foods and languages, music.