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Inspirational speaker comes to Frisco

LORY POUNDERsummit daily news
Mawi Asgedom
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FRISCO – Born amid civil war in Ethiopia, Mawi Asgedom was forced to flee with his family across hundreds of miles of wilderness. He was 3 years old at the time and spent the next three years of his childhood surviving at a Sudanese refugee camp before the family was able to make their way to the United States.Today, Asgedom is a Harvard graduate and award-winning author who overcame the challenges of welfare, learned English and withstood family tragedy. And Friday, this motivational speaker will be in Summit County.”He has just an outstanding story,” said Erin Head, integration liaison at the Family & Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) who helped bring Asgedom here as part of a speaker series. “Just his message will be valuable for anyone to hear.”Asgedom is the second speaker in the series, sponsored by the Town of Frisco and FIRC that is part of the county’s Community Integration Plan. The first was Rubin Gonzalez, an immigrant from Argentina who is a three-time Olympian in the luge and who carried a message of pushing beyond limitations when he spoke in May, Head said.

The idea behind the series is to bring in positive role models, emphasizing the importance of being part of the human community and breaking down cultural barriers. And in addition to speaking to the community, the series is connected to curriculum at the middle school.Asgedom will be speaking to Summit Middle School students, parents and teachers during “Mix It Up,” a day focused on breaking down social barriers and encouraging a climate of open-mindedness and acceptance between students regardless of race, religion, gender, culture, or disability, according to a school district press release.”I’m really looking forward to having Mawi come,” Head said. “He’s set such an amazing precedent of bridging gaps.”He is also a fitting speaker because of the county’s changing demographics, Head said.Within Summit County, about 80 people are from West Africa and some are currently working on bringing their families over, said Susan Robertson, West African outreach coordinator at the FIRC. Many are refugees from Mauritania and Senegal, she added.

Since 1999, Asgedom has spoken to more than 350,000 students and educators across the country, and his three books and four CDS have won multiple awards, selling more than 150,000 copies, according to http://www.mawispeaks.com. He appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” was one of “The 40 Most Inspiring African-American” in Essence Magazine, and he gave the commencement speech when he graduated from Harvard in 1999. There he began by saying, “When I was a child, my mother told me that I should always sleep with the covers over my head. At the time, my family was living in a Sudanese refugee camp, in Africa, and we owned nothing that we did not carry with us. On many a night, we slept out in the open, and my mother warned that if we let the covers down, snakes could slip in and slither into our mouths. We had no trouble following her advice.”Later in the speech, Asgedom said, “My mother’s advice in childhood was to pull the covers over my head – that had been the easy part. But her later advice (not to forget where you come from) meant, I now realize, that I should know when to pull the covers down and stick my neck out. That’s the hard part. Too many of us go through life with the covers over our heads. … But as you all know, progress is not easy, and it will not come unsolicited. I hope that many of us will inspire positive change.”Guest speaker

n Mawi Asgedom will be speaking Friday at 8:15 a.m. at Summit Middle School for students, parents and teachers. Then at 6 p.m. he will be speaking at the County Commons near Frisco. The Commons event is free and open to the public.n After the Friday evening presentation, Asgedom will hold a book signing, and his memoir “Of Beetles and Angels” will be available for purchase.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at lpounder@summitdaily.com.


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