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Photo ofOmar Elhashash

My father, Mahmoud A. Elhashash, was born under a goat in Egypt. This was on a hot July day in 1963. He grew up in a place near the city of Qillin, Egypt. That place was called Kafr el Sheikh. If you look this up on Google Maps, it shows you giant buildings and lots of cars, but that isn’t true. I have been there, and there are no large buildings. There are don- keys and camels everywhere, and for every animal, ten flies and ten mosquitoes. The stench of those animals is so bad that it feels like an assault. Despite the scent, there are still nice things about my father’s homeland. The food is amazing. You can smell the mangos from the other side of town. The fruits are succulent and full of juice. The smell of fresh fish is so good that you question your entire existence.  When my father lived there, he lived on a cotton farm. While he was a kid, he worked in the cotton fields, making sure bollworm caterpillars did not lay any eggs on the cotton. He and his cousins worked for about 14 hours a day, without any food. At the age of twelve, my dad started to go to school.  It was then that his ambition to come to America developed. He worked on the farm until he was nineteen.  At nineteen, my father ran away from home and began his journey to America, hoping to immigrate as a student. He was granted a visa and began as a student at Northeastern University, studying Math. He met my Mom there when they both worked security shifts for the school. While a student, he of- ten worked sixteen-hour-days as a security guard in addition to a four-hour- shift at Burger King for food. This lasted for a few years until my parents got married, and my dad got a PhD in Math. This reduced his daily work to twelve hours per day.  My mother was also pursuing a PhD, but she gave birth to her first child, Mostafa, in 1997. He lived most of his young life in Egypt because my par- ents had made a pilgrimage to Mecca. Two years later, in 1999, Abdel was born. At this point, my mother had to stop pursuing her PhD to stay home with her young children. Then, my dad became a teacher at Bridgewater State College, before it became a University. On July 25, 2003, I was born. My family moved from downtown Quincy to North Quincy in 2009. In 2010, Bridgewater State College became a University and my father was granted tenure.  I was 7 years old when I learned that my dad was a teacher. At first, I was offended, because at that ripe age of seven I thought teachers were “evil”. Then I remembered my visit to Egypt. At first, I thought it would be cool if I grew up in Egypt, but after visiting the country a few more times I realized that living in Egypt would be tough. Life in America is easier than most third world countries. I may occasionally wonder what my life would be like in Egypt, but I know it would never be the same as it is right now. My parents changed my life just by improving themselves in America. My parents mean everything to me and I know that my life is forever in their debt. 

© Omar Elhashash. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.