In May 1991, 11-year-old Alemayehu Addis left his family and most of their worldly possessions to escape the turmoil in his homeland of Ethiopia, settling in Philadelphia with his sister and mother. Addis’ mother sought a residential school where he could receive a formidable education. Upon learning about Church Farm School, he applied. “I later heard that I completely bombed the aptitude test,” Addis laughs. “But CFS took a chance on me.”
He entered 7th grade just three months after arriving in the United States. Adjusting to life in a new country is hard enough, but being thrust into boarding school life was doubly hard. “I cried every night for two weeks,” Addis recalls. Comfort came through bonding with fellow African immigrants, particularly Dempsey Woods from Liberia.
While meeting students with familiar backgrounds consoled Addis, the bonds he forged with those “unlike” himself were also extremely impactful. “CFS provided a comfortable environment in which I could connect with people of different backgrounds. I didn’t have to be someone I wasn’t.”
One of the strongest connections was with Steve Loney. “We are still great friends,” Addis says. “I was his best man, and he was mine.” Loney joined the Church Farm School Board of Directors in 2009 and encouraged Addis to seek election. “I always thought of Board membership as a way in which I could help the school and so I made that a long-term goal. But then I decided there was no point in waiting any longer. I want to give back now,” Addis, who was elected in 2014, says.
Addis brings vast experience to the CFS Board: an electrical engineering degree from the University of Pennsylvania, U. S. Army tours in Afghanistan and Iraq (where he earned two Commendations and a Bronze Star) and currently, an IT management and consulting job. “I’m very excited about all of the Administration’s new directions,” Addis says, citing “A stronger curriculum, the increased focus on development and recruiting … everything being done to modernize and put students in a better position to succeed.”