When Aden Abdi first arrived in the United States at 9 years old, he and his family had hopes of a better life, education and success.
Abdi's family left war-torn Somalia for Kenya before making its way to Tucson in 2004. He enrolled in the fourth grade despite never attending school a day in his life and not speaking the language.
Nine years later, the Pueblo Magnet High School senior is well-spoken and will graduate today with A's and B's. Through participation in the Pima County JTED program, he will be a certified nursing assistant.
Abdi's life is everything he thought it would be.
"Knowing that I was coming here, I expected that my life would change," Abdi said. "My parents always wanted to educate their children. They wanted a good environment and freedom. This was the right place for us."
Kenyan-born Abdi, 18, recalls it being hard to find food and water there. What he did find was a passion helping others. "I would see sick people and I just wanted to help them so they could get better."
Though much has changed over the years, Abdi's interest in medicine has not.
After finishing classes at Pueblo, he takes a four-hour class in the certified nursing assistant program at JTED, followed by homework late into the night.
Abdi spends his weekends interning at Tucson Medical Center in the phlebotomy lab and is preparing to start a summer program at the hospital that could lead to a job in the field.
He plans to attend Rio Salado College in the fall and will transfer later to Grand Canyon University.
Ultimately, Abdi wants to become a registered nurse, and, maybe one day, a doctor.
In the meantime, he practices his patient-care skills through the JTED program. He advises his brothers on eating healthy and preventive care so they will not fall prey to various diseases - and plays pickup soccer when he gets some free time.
He also participates in anatomy club and the Health Occupations Students of America club at Pueblo. He has volunteered at the Somali Bantu Association of Tucson and at an assisted-living home.
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at email@example.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea