Jamal learned English quickly after arriving in the United States at 12 and did well in high school. But when he was just 16 his father moved back to Ethiopia, their country of origin, for medical reasons, leaving Jamal and his siblings to make their own way.
“At that age you still need support,” Jamal said. While living with another family for a while, then on his own, he faltered and felt uncertain about his future. Arriving at Nicollet Square, he found a place to clear his head.
Today Jamal, 21, earns $12 an hour as a part-time assisted living aide – good preparation for the health care career he seeks – while attending Minneapolis Community and Technical College with plans to major in nursing.
“To study you need a quiet place. Coming here, that is one big weight off my shoulders. There is less to worry about,” he said. “Everyone is kind and wants the best for you.”
Despite the hardships he’s faced, Jamal is very grateful for the educational opportunities available to him here. Nicollet Square’s affordable rent also allows him to stretch his budget, even saving some money to send to his parents back home.
“Having a stable place to live means having a peaceful state of mind,” he said. “Nicollet Square is a place to focus and work on rebuilding myself.”
Jamal's pictured at Nicollet Square, in front of a mural designed and painted by the artist HOTTEA. Photo credit: Rebecca Zenefski