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From across the globe to graduation

Every 27J graduate forges a unique path to their graduation day. For Angel Mollel, a 2020 senior, her journey has spanned thousands of miles, from a small Tanzanian village to the United States, to Brighton High, and now to her high school graduation. 

Angel grew up in a small Maasai village, located in northern Tanzania, Africa. The Maasai tribe lives a very traditional lifestyle dependent on livestock. Angel grew up in a small, mud hut with a grass roof and sixteen siblings--seven of whom were from her mother’s side, as her father has two wives. 

In this small village, education is hard to come by, as free, public schools do not exist. Yet, at a young age, Angel learned how valuable education was to her. Angel and one of her sister’s were chosen by their father to attend a private, American school, The O’Brien School for the Maasai, in the next village over. In order to attend the school, Angel had to leave her own family and cook and clean for another family in exchange for a bed to sleep in near her school. 

In recalling this time of her life, Angel focused on the impact of school and education, “Honestly, I loved education… Going to school was my escape from everything.”

It is thanks to her education that Angel met her adoptive father, Tony Matteroli. While Angel was attending the O’Brien school, Tony was volunteering there for six months. In this period of time, Tony developed a close relationship with Angel and her family. This connection made Tony want to do more for Angel. Tony helped Angel acquire a student visa so she could attend school in the United States. 

Angel arrived in the United States in October of 2012, and was enrolled in fifth grade at a private school. She was not fluent in English at the time and had to carry around a notepad to communicate with others. 

Angel’s parents and Tony, wanting the best for Angel, agreed to go through the adoption process. Tony became Angel’s adoptive father in 2014. Two years later, Angel was able to go back and see her family as a United States citizen. She has continued visiting them since, feeling strong ties to her roots and culture she left behind. 

In 2018, Angel started a non-profit organization called 1 Love. This organization sponsors Maasai children to go to school, has brought water and solar panels to the village, helped build cinder block houses, and provides the tribe money for daily necessities. Through 1 Love, Angel has also collected Chromebook donations from graduating Brighton High seniors, sending some to Maasai students and selling others to fund 1 Love projects. 

Even while committing herself to these philanthropic acts, Angel has excelled in her academics and sports. She has been playing softball year-round since 2014, plays tennis, and takes AP and honors classes while maintaining above a 4.0 grade point average. 

 

An exemplary student, Angel had been hoping to mark a major milestone on her path by having her biological parents see her walk across the stage at her high school graduation. In February, Tony and Angel created a GoFundMe page to raise money for Angel’s parents' plane tickets to the United States so that they could see her graduate high school. In a matter of weeks, they reached their fundraising goal.

 

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Due to the current situation with COVID-19 and school closures, Angel’s biological parents will not be coming in May as she had hoped. Graduation, for Angel and the rest of the Class of 2020, is no longer what they had expected. This realization has brought up many difficult feelings. 

“It is devastating,” said Angel. “I was planning on sharing the experience with my biological parents as it was going to be a really special moment for me. I wanted to look back at them as I received my diploma as a way to thank them.” 

Through this adversity, Angel is staying positive. “We just have to adjust and move forward.”

Angel hopes to still use the money raised to pay for her parents to travel to the United States at a later date so they can see the life she has built here. If that is not feasible, she will donate the money towards her non-profit organization, 1 Love. 

Angel will be attending CU Boulder this fall to study graphic design and plans to keep giving back to the Maasai tribe. 

We know that this is not an easy time for our seniors or their families. Expectations long planned for have been disrupted by events larger than any us. However, as we see in the story of Angel, sometimes life’s path makes unexpected turns that can lead to wonderful outcomes. All of 27J is #27JProud our seniors and their accomplishments. We know they will go on to many more successes after graduation and will carry with them the lessons learned and memories made from their times in 27J schools.