GYPSUM, Colorado --When Saidu Diaw stepped foot into the New America School for his classes, which he almost never missed, he could light up everyone's faces.
Principal Kathy Brendza says she will miss Diaw - he graduated from New America School last Saturday. An immigrant from Africa who came to America after a tough upbringing and many hardships, education was always his top priority.
Diaw grew up in Senegal, where his father was "powerful and political," he said. A war changed his life - soldiers from the bordering country of Mauritania invaded the village where he lived with his family. The soldiers accused Diaw and his family, along with others in the village, of being "Fulani" - an ethnicity not welcome in the country.
Diaw said his father was the reason the soldiers came to the village that day. They took his father away and tortured him for a week before he could escape.
The government of Senegal allowed Diaw and his father to seek refuge in a camp there and the United States government took Diaw's father into the United States a few years later, he said.
It was here in Colorado where Diaw started to continue the education he began back in Africa. He only spoke French and had the big task of learning English ahead of him. He said it took just about three months at the New America School before he could communicate pretty well with most people.
"Everyone has a dream, and school was my first key to having the American dream," he said. "I want my life's fortune to be here in the U.S.A."
Now that he's finished with high school, his education remains his most important goal.
He plans to go to Colorado Mountain College for a year before transferring to the University of Colorado at Boulder. Brendza is thrilled because her son, Will Brendza, plans to head to CU-Boulder at the same time.-
"My son is so hoping they can be roommates," she said. "(Diaw) is one of those guys, that no matter what, he would be there to help you. He's just a true friend."
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org