Walid (Math & Computer Science)

Walid was described by his counselor at Manhattan Comprehensive Night and Day High School as “a phenomenal storyteller and an eloquent speaker.” That talent for words and images also applies to his writing — in a language that he first began speaking just three years ago. Walid and his family struggled just to get to this country. They had been approved for visas, but before they could pick them up the war in Yemen forced the evacuation of the United States consulate. As the oldest in the family, Walid was the first to try the escape route to Djibouti and its American embassy — 28 hours across rough water, navigating by the stars in a boat so packed that luggage eventually had to be thrown overboard to keep it afloat. Walid and, eventually, his family made it to Djibouti and obtained their visas. Walid now dreams of another sort of journey: He aims to be an astronaut. “I’m addicted to space,” he told us, and reminisced about climbing to the roof of his home in Yemen to look at the stars. “If you have a dream to achieve, you are really living,” he says. “I want to live.”