Philly.com is spreading the word about former Norristown student Akbar Hossain and his epic success story. Hossain, now a junior at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, was recently awarded a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a prestigious award for college juniors planning a career in public service.
Hossain's story is almost Dickensian – the 21-year-old and his family emigrated to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia when he was ten, two days before the 9/11 attacks. They arrived first in New York where they were swindled out of $5,000 by an unscrupulous immigration counselor. Stuck in a New Jersey motel, they met a manager at an Indian restaurant who had a family member in Norristown. The Norristown man found them an apartment, a job for Hossain's father and helped enroll the kids in school.
“They didn’t ask for a penny,” Hossain told Philly.com.
Hossain excelled at Whitehall Elementary, despite even more tragedy befalling his family – the death of his father in 2004. The elder Hossain collapsed of heatstroke after walking home from work one day. Akbar attempted to perform CPR on his father, but couldn't save him.
At , Hossain became student council president and even president of the National Honor Society chapter as well as a student representative on the school board. He earned a full-scholarship to Franklin and Marshall, where he continued to flourish.
Hossain is planning a career in immigration law.
“I’ve experienced everything that’s best about the U.S. immigration system,” Hossain told Philly.com. "But persecuted asylum-seekers often face unfair obstacles. You can’t let everybody in, but people who are deserving and suffering, they just want a chance to survive.”
Read more about Hossain and his inspiring life story here.