WALTHAM (CBS) – Waltham High School senior Ali Adekunle has seen his share of struggles which is why he keeps his nose in the books. “It was the worst nightmare anyone could imagine to have,” Ali said.
Growing up in Nigeria, his entire family including his mother, father and sisters were all murdered by the terrorist group Boko Haram when he was ten years old.
“It’s very difficult if you feel like you have to become your mom by yourself and dad by yourself,” he said.
Living in refugee camps Adekunle found his way to America and into the arms of some loving mentors, like his assistant principal Chris Gelinas.
“He’s got this amazing positive perspective on his life in general and he’s so focused on education,” Gelinas said.
But it was his psychology teacher, Lauren Boyle, who nominated him to receive his school’s Profile in Courage Award, which he graciously accepted.
“That he can go from the depths of despair and to come out to where he is today,” Boyle said. “An honor student, friends with everybody and a hard worker.”
Currently Ali lives in a group home, he speaks four different languages and has a full time job. When he first came to America, he says going to college wasn’t even on his radar but his courage and commitment shows he has truly earned it.
“It was a dream I never had before,” Adekunle said.
Now he’s on his way to Fitchburg State and studying to become a nurse. Friends and school staff have set up a Facebook fundraising page to help cover the cost of books and meals.
“Every time someone makes a donation on this page he doesn’t have to work his full time job,” Gelinas said.
“There’s nothing in this world that will make someone happy as to help someone,” Ali said.
And that takes courage.