A Perfect Score

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Ashnafeh Entenne and Aterso Ubayu, both 16 years old, finished all formal schooling in their native Ethiopia by grade three. When they reached Israel four years ago, they returned to the schoolroom at last– literally worlds away– in a program for new Ethiopian immigrants at Boys Town Jerusalem. Amazingly enough, on their first national bagrut matriculation exam this June, their scores in mathematics were the envy of every Israeli student: 100 and 99, respectively.

“This impressive accomplishment is a milestone in the odyssey that Ashnafeh, Aterso and their classmates began once they left Ethiopia,” said Ehud Chamo, who heads the BTJ Ethiopian program. “None of them has had an easy life, especially Aterso, who became orphaned from his parents in Ethiopia and made the journey to Israel on his own at age 12. At Boys Town, we’ve worked to give the youngsters a warm, supportive environment in which to grow and become part of Israeli society. This June, 14 of the students joined all Israeli 10th graders to take standardized exams in math, English and technology, a mean feat considering that our students had learned these subjects, plus Hebrew, from complete scratch. I’m pleased that for the most part, our students did well on the exams. But Ashnafe and Aterso were truly remarkable!”

“When I first began teaching the Ethiopian students math, I struggled to find a way to explain the very basics,” recalls instructor Benny Duani. “I was quite concerned how to even bring them up to the level of the national bagrut exams. As time went on, the class made slow but steady progress, but Ashnafe and Aterso shone from the start. Ashnafe is quiet, polite, and catches on instantly. Aterso started at the bottom, but is extremely serious and disciplined. He’d spend long hours on math exercises until he finally solved them.” Last year, Aterso brought honor to Boys Town Jerusalem in a different but none less grueling arena, when he clinched a silver medallion in the National Religious High School Athletic Competition’s 1500-meter track event.

“When summer vacation started, our Ethiopian students remained for a three-week intensive study program to prepare them for the three bagrut subjects,” Benny Duani noted. “We also prepped them for the pressure of the exams, and gave techniques to apply their knowledge to many types of questions. They all realize how crucial the bagrut exams are to advance in Israel.”

Ashnafe now dreams of joining Boys Town’s high-level CISCO computer studies track, and is debating whether to pursue a future career in computers or medicine. Aterso has his heart set on continuing his athletic pursuits, and to become accepted to Boys Town’s highly competitive College of Applied Engineering following graduation. Both young men are enthusiastic about serving in the Israeli Army, and both are determined to continue their Jewish studies after graduation and throughout their lives.

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