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PROGRAM — Children's Scholarship Fund of Omaha

“My Father’s Words”

As I walked by the hotel bathroom, I saw my father throwing up in the sink. I immediately knew something was different. He looked me in the eye and told me, “Everything will be okay.” That was all I needed to hear. That was the first phrase I remember my father saying to me, surely it wouldn’t be the last. Father’s upset stomach was simply his body’s reaction to the first meal he ate in the United States.

Jacob speaks during National School School Choice Week at the Nebraska Capital.

I vividly recall the experience of leaving Africa and heading to our new home in the United States. It was late 2003 in Egypt and I remember the air was filled with a number of mixed emotions, followed by tears flowing at the moment. As my family filled the bus with other refugee families heading to the airport, I did not understand why our other family members were weeping as we were heading to the “Land of the Free”.

Isn’t this what we have been praying for? If so, why was everyone crying as if we would never see each other again? At the moment, I did not know this exodus to America would leave the most powerful image of my childhood experience. As we started our journey of tribulations and blessings in America, I was not sure of what the future had in hand, but I was confident in my Father’s words. “Everything will be okay”.

Omaha Nebraska became our new home. One would expect me to say we had nothing, but that would be false. We had each other, we had family, and we had a special blessing stored for us by God. That blessing was our now extended family, All Saints Catholic School, which I attended with the assistance of a scholarship.

At a very early age, my father ingrained the importance of education in our identity. Day in and day out repeating yet another one of his famous phrases, “Nyi ta asci sookuru ga,” meaning keep your focus on school. My parents worked countless hours to make sure we had a private education. Their hard work, along with All Saint’s flexibility, allowed us the privilege of receiving private education which has been a blessing from God. From All Saints, I attended Mount Michael Benedictine, which altered my life in so many positive ways. One of those being continuing my private education at Creighton University where I received a full ride academic scholarship.

My family, like many other immigrant families, did not come to America with much wealth. Therefore to send your children to private school takes hard work, persistence, and dedication, which my father has shown me through my 14 years of Catholic Education.

One day I asked my father why he paid for my school when I could go to public school for free.

He responded by asking me a rhetorical question, “Do you know why I brought you to America?” As silence drifted in the air and I reconsidered my question, he said, “Son, nothing in America is for free, you must work for everything you have, I send you to private school so you can be challenged. Nothing good in this world is easy, you must work for everything you want. Do not let money define you, that’s why I will not let money define what education you get.” I haven’t questioned my father again since that day.

I support school choice because expanding such policies will allow for more students with similar stories as mine to have a choice in their education, a choice that could change their lives.

Read Jacob’s Editorial in the Omaha World Herald: Midlands Voices: Is Omaha Behind? 

Read more about Jacob and why he supports expanding educational opportunity for all children here: Catholic Voice: Students testify to benefits of scholarship tax credits

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