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Terfa Peter Yua from Nigeria

Terfa - pronounced “Tayfu” - Yua came to America for a good education. His mother, Iyefu, a journalist in the capital of Nigeria, had arranged for her sister to watch after both Terfa and his younger brother, Adoba.

Terfa uses his middle name “Peter,” because it became clear that “nobody could pronounce ‘Terfa’ right,” he admitted with a shy smile. It was his way of making it easier on the people around him to remember him. A name that nobody can pronounce is easily forgotten.

But Peter will be remembered by his classmates and teachers at Bishop Dunne. “He’s a real good guy, always laughing, a real jokester,” said classmate Zach Haynes, heading to Howard on a scholarship.

“He loves to read,” said Nick Watkins, headed to Notre Dame this fall on a full scholarship, “and is always smiling.”

His cheerful attitude belies the danger he left behind in Nigeria, a country where terrorist groups are harassing Christians on a daily basis. “They are anti-western, anti-Christian,” he explained. So his mother and father decided the safest thing for him and his brother was a new country and a new school.

His aunt, Anita, attends Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and her friends there told her about Bishop Dunne. Although she lives in North Dallas, she drives both boys an hour one way to get to Dunne, and then comes back by 6 p.m. to pick them up. “We leave about 7:10 a.m.” Peter said. “And get home about 7:00 p.m.” That’s a long day for anyone, but a commitment was made by his aunt, his parents and he and his brother to see it through.

On his first day at Bishop Dunne, he headed to French class with Miss Keaton Van Beveren. She reported, “Peter is such a kind, quiet soul with a good sense of humor. The thing that makes him distinct for me is the way that he never misses an opportunity to say 'hello' when he sees his teachers or friends in the hallway. Most kids avoid eye contact with their teachers in the hallways, but he always gives a nice wave and says ‘hello, Ms. Van Beveren.’” She added, “It's those small, polite gestures that impress me and make him such a great student to work with.”

And it was Ms. Van Beveren’s kindness and cheerfulness that first day in class that put him at ease, and soon he realized he could relax in his new school. “People were welcoming. I didn’t expect that,” he observed.

It’s just the opposite in his country: just last week, in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, more than 40 insurgents and four soldiers died in clashes between Nigerian troops and Islamists near the scene where scores of abducted girls are believed to be held in the north of the country, the military said on Friday. “The capture of a number of terrorists believed to be the ringleaders of those operating around Alagarmo sparked off a major fight on the outskirts of Bulanbuli, Borno State, last night,” Defense Spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade said in a statement.

Bulanbuli is between Alagarmo and Sambisa forest where the students, who were kidnapped April 14, are believed to be held. That abduction of 276 girls, recalled to the school to take a physics exam, happened in the early hours of the morning, while they were sleeping, and came hours after the deadliest attack yet in Nigeria’s capital — a bomb blast at a crowded bus station that killed at least 75 people. The capital is where Terfa’s family lives.

 This story has seized the world's attention, but it isn't isolated – fear of school has become ingrained in northern Nigeria. According to an Amnesty International report in October last year, about 70 teachers and more than 100 school children have lost their lives. In neighboring Yobe state, which has been in a state of emergency for nearly a year, 209 schools have been destroyed. In Borno state more than 800 classrooms have been burned down.

But in Oak Cliff, Peter and his brother are learning in a quiet, beautiful setting, in a school with courtyards where flowers bloom and a statue of Mary watches over students in the library through a glass wall that lets in sunshine all day long.

When Peter’s mother sat him down on the family couch in 2012 to talk to him about his future, Peter said, “I was excited. We had talked about me finishing high school somewhere else other than Nigeria, and maybe attending college in Europe.” What he didn’t realize was that he wouldn’t see his parents (his father, Eugene, is a businessman) for years. Round-trip airfare from Nigeria to America and back is about $1,000. “My mother may come to my graduation, but I don’t know for sure – it’s so expensive,” he explained.

What he does know is his future is set for the next four years: he’ll be studying at The University of Dallas on a full scholarship, the first Bishop Dunne Falcon to be awarded a Paul Wood Scholarship. He is one of four seniors who were honored in an assembly on May 1 for receiving full scholarships for academic excellence. He plans to major in International Studies, with an emphasis on conflict resolution, and hopes to return to his country to assist the people of Nigeria by turning them away from violence and toward peaceful cooperation. The essay he wrote for the scholarship application was about that: his hope – and plan – to help his country heal.

He also hopes to marry and have three children, like his favorite teacher on campus, Mr. Mark Clifford, father of three. “He’s hilarious, and such a good AP Government teacher,” Peter said. His toughest class this year is Pre-Cal with Ms. Audrey Smith. “She’s a great teacher, but I’m not a math person,” Peter admitted.

This summer he’ll have time to volunteer at local non-profits, as he’s been doing, including the New Hope Foundation, helping lower income families in the Oak Cliff area. His senior service site was across the street at Carpenter Elementary where he tutored kindergarteners and third graders. Given his choice, he prefers the kindergarteners as, he said, “they have so much energy!”

Peter’s energy was high last year when he played on both the football and soccer teams. “He’s very aggressive on the field, really a good athlete,” said his Bishop Dunne Soccer coach, Stephen LaBrecque. He concentrated his skills in football this year as a defensive end, and his favorite memories of Bishop Dunne include his senior year on the football team, “getting to know the other guys and the coaches. And, of course, winning!” he grins. He also liked both the junior and senior retreats, although he admits there was very little sleeping in the latter. “Just staying up late in the cabin and talking and laughing was great,” he said, “Joking with Dorian, Nathaniel, and Jovan late into the night was so much fun.”

Peter needed his sleep the week of prom, when he became very sick. “They thought I had meningitis, and even took a spinal tap,” but the test cleared him and on Friday night, he saw Dallas from the 33rd floor of the W Hotel. “I sat a lot,” he said, “but did make it onto the dance floor for one dance, with Rakel Barrientos.”

Peter looks forward to graduation. When asked, he couldn’t think of anything he needed or wanted other than his diploma, but admitted a MacBook Pro could help him in college. And if he had his choice of spots for a graduation dinner, he’d choose Gloria’s on Lower Greenville Avenue.

He’ll be living just up the road in Irving next fall, and keeping in touch with his little brother back on the Bishop Dunne campus. He hopes he’s a good role model for Adoba, and prays for him, his Aunt Anita, and his parents in Nigeria, every Sunday at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship.

He’s flown a long way to become a Falcon, and one day, after college graduation, will fly back to his country, to make it a safer place for his countrymen. This Falcon has already accomplished much, and flown high - but one day soon, he will soar.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” - Matthew 5:9

Information provided by Judy Porter.

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