Keeping it real: Abdalla Dadiri’s journey through life


Dalla’s senior picture, hard-earned through defeating a language barrier and his own self-imposed limitations. Photo by Tristen Jansheski.

Meredith Ablao , News Editor

On many occasions, students forget how much their journey through education has made them who they are today. Senior Abdalla Dadiri, however, will never forget.

At age two, “Dalla,” as his friends call him, moved from Kenya to the United States to flee from the harsh realities of the war. His mother, himself, and his three brothers left his father in search for a better life in the U.S.

“When we first came to America, we lived in Grand Rapids. My dad stayed back because he didn’t have his papers,” Dalla said. His father did not get to recognize his American dream, however: he passed away due to an illness that he contacted during the war.  

Education was a struggle for Dalla. “It was extremely hard because my language was different. My little brother was my only friend for a while because of this,” he said.  “In third grade, I stopped telling people I was African because I was being bullied.”

Making friends and adapting to the American culture was something that was hard.  “I made friends through my brothers. Their friends became my friends.” Learning English was a childhood barrier as well, but he learned how to adapt through watching T.V and piecing together context clues. “I started catching on, and that helped me make friends as well,” he said.

Dalla’s first home in the United States left something to be desired. “Grand Rapids was a war zone of its own,” he said. “The school system was really bad. We lived in the southeast side. I went to Eldger Middle School, and that’s when things started going down hill.”

He struggled in middle school, asking for help and discovering that no one was there for him. That is when his aunt stepped in and told his mom that it was time for a change: to go to Portage Northern High School.

When he started at Northern, he felt academically behind his classmates. Soon, with motivation from his family and friends, things changed. “By sophomore year, my grades got a lot better. I started focusing on college and my future,” he said. He says his main support system is his aunt, uncle and mom. “They influenced me to have a better life for myself.”

Dalla decided to become more engaged in his learning, and committed himself to doing his best.  “I always wanted to help other people, because I don’t want others to struggle like I did,” he said.

In the future, he sees himself as a youth specialist helping kids who are at risk in the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo areas. “It took me awhile to realize that the future really matters, and I want to help kids stay in school,” he said.  As of today, he plans on attending WMU in fall of 2018, where he intends to major in business management with a minor in criminal justice. After many years struggling to focus on and enjoy school, Abdalla Dadiri has finally accomplished his goals.