Abraham Lighting The Way
By Stephen Varga
San Diego State's Gemechu Abraham is just like your typical Pac-12 athlete - he attends class, hangs out with friends and stars on the Aztec soccer team.
But what sets the 20-year-old midfielder apart from other athletes in the conference is what he wants to do off the field once his playing days are over.
Attending SDSU to study business, Abraham plans to build and maintain schools in his native Ethiopia, hoping to give his fellow Ethiopians a chance at higher education.
Born in a small town outside Ethiopia's capitol Addis Ababa, Abraham came with his family to live in Oregon when he was a boy.
He never lost his Ethiopian pride, however, knowing where he is from and appreciating every second and the opportunities he has been given.
"I'm just trying to give back to where my family comes from," he said.
Last winter, Abraham traveled to Ethiopia with family where he saw first-hand the schooling and educational conditions that exist in villages across the country. The experience was a humbling one, he said, and it added even more to his desire to help.
One of his ideas was to raise money to donate LED lanterns to schools across the country, replacing the old and dangerous kerosene lamps that are used so frequently to shed light in school houses.
"Kids over there would die for the opportunities we have here, and I want to help make that happen," Abraham said.
SDSU men's soccer coach Lev Kirshner says care and generosity are traits he brings to the soccer pitch as well, motivating teammates and always going the extra mile.
"He's always got a smile on his face and he's always willing to help," Kirshner said. "He's got a wonderful personality, willing to share and give towards his team. He's got one of the best spirits we have on this team."
Putting others before self comes almost as second nature to Abraham - it's just who he is.
"Everyone gravitates towards him because he's such a great locker room guy. He's just somebody you want around," Kirshner said.
Abraham plans another trip to Ethiopia in the coming months to continue his work, hoping to build on the progress he has already made. He wants to take some soccer balls, too, promoting healthy living and good old-fashioned fun.
In the mean time, Abraham will continue to pursue his education and try to lead the Aztecs to victory, all the while focusing on his goals in Ethiopia and putting the needs of others before his own.
"It's just a testament to the kind of person he is," Kirshner said.