International Prep @ Grover student Ezana Kahsay emigrated 4 years ago, signed to play D-1 soccer at Akron.


BUFFALO, N.Y. - In 2011, Ezana Yohannes Kahsay moved to Buffalo. A boy, just 16, who had seen so much. He was born in Eritrea, a small African country, just north of Ethiopia. A country he, his sister and mother were forced to flee in 2005.

The Eritrean president had a policy of taking teenagers to military camps after they completed 11th grade. After his older brothers and father were taken, Ezaana's mother Besrat Araya made the decision, she had to get what was left of her family out.

In January of 2005 Besrat hired two men to help them escape, and she boarded a bus to the countryside. They told military patrol road blocks that they were attending a wedding. They lucked out and made it through. She finally arrived at an Ethiopian refugee camp with Ezana and his sister, Saron.

They lived in that camp for 6 years. All teh while dreaming of teh day their papers would come through and they could go to the United States. Saron says "She wanted a good opportunity for us so that we could have a good education." In 2011 they arrived in Buffalo.

Today a refugee is celebrating the American dream, as Ezana signed a letter of intent to play division 1 soccer, but that too proved to be a major hurdle for Ezana.

Tony Alessi, Ezana's coach at The International Preparatory School at Grover Cleveland asked him about his goals for the future. Ezana told him he wanted to play college soccer, at the University of Akron. That was quite a lofty goal, as Akron is a national powerhouse. Another potential problem was the fact that Ezana was already a senior and most college recruiting is done in a player's junior year. But Alessi went to work, he called the Akron coach and told him about his player's size, skills and intellect, "He's the whole package".

Although he was a star on a very good team, no scouts came to watch him during the season. Alessi was not detered, he called again, urging Akron's coach to take a look. He then was told about a recruit camp that Akron was hosting. Alessi calculated the cost, raised the money through other faculty members and got Ezana to the camp and Ezana did the rest.

"We took him there for the exposure, we figures somebody's going to want this kid, it was a dream come true, for him and I."

Today, surrounded by friends and family, he signed his commitment letter to play soccer at Akron. "This is the happiest day of my life" Ezana said, a world away from the refugee camp he once called home.

Soccer served as a welcome mat when Ezana first arrived and now it is serving as a gateway to his future. "Just about everyone I knew played soccer, so coming to this school, I knew in the streets I played with them, so coming in here to the school they played. So fitting in wasn't a problem for me, it was more like being with friends again. So they made me feel at home, i'm very grateful for that. "

Giving him a future that he could only dream of just 4 short years ago

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