DENTON, Texas — As Tiblets Abreha looks through her schedule for the spring semester at the University of North Texas, she knows something as simple as taking biology, history and math is something she isn’t taking for granted.

“To go to college, it was like, ‘I made it,’” Abreha said. 

Abreha was only 11 when she left her parents and their impoverished East African village of Eritrea to seek refuge in Ethiopia. The 21-year-old says young girls in their country would get married at a very young age and lack any sort of education. Abreha knew she wanted her life to be different and followed other friends who were doing the same. 

“You know that you are leaving, but like, you cannot even tell them because they will not send you. So you just leave them behind, so it was very difficult,” Abreha said. 

After a perilous on-foot trek to Ethiopia, Abreha spent three years in a refugee camp until she was given a chance at a new life in the Lone Star State. When she moved to Dallas, Texas, in 2015, Abreha went into middle school not knowing the English language. 

Abreha's foster family lives in Grapevine and has been a major part of her success in North Texas. (Tiblets Abreha)

However, Abreha was determined to find success in her new home. Three foster families and a high school graduation later, Abreha is now attending UNT. Her current foster family, who lives in Grapevine, has helped push Abreha to reach her potential. 

Since attending UNT in the fall of 2021, Abreha has earned a spot on the university track team and has been elected as the vice president of UNT’s P.U.S.H. program. UNT P.U.S.H., or Persevere Until Success Happens, was established to help students who have experienced foster care or homelessness adjust to university life. 

Taylor Torres is a coordinator of special projects for the nearly 10-year program. She works with Abreha and says this kind of resource is vital for some students. 

Tiblets Abreha was elected as the vice president of UNT P.U.S.H. The campus program helps other students who have been in the foster care system or have dealt with homelessness. (Tiblets Abreha)

“We offer financial resources to our students as well as just social support and support for them as they’re coming to and through college,” Torres said. 

Torres says there are nearly 300 UNT students like Abreha who could qualify for help. 

“There is help out there for them. It’s OK to ask for help and they can do it,” Torres emphasized. 

It’s help that Abreha is looking to bring to other students like herself. No matter her career path, the UNT student says she’s determined to be a voice of help and encouragement for other refugees here and back in East Africa. 

As Abreha reflects on her life, she says the most important thing that she was given was “hope.” Now she hopes to do the same for others as she pursues a higher education.