Abdikadir “Nini” Mohamed speaks with a noticeable accent, sometimes pausing to choose just the right word or phrase. But the fact that he has grasped the English language as well as he has is somewhat remarkable
Only five years ago Nini was living in Kenya with his parents and eight younger siblings. He had never spoken or written English. Education was not a priority in that part of Africa. Acquiring food and water for the family was a major pastime, playing soccer was another. Nini’s mother would walk two to three hours just to get drinking water. His father sewed clothes and sold the finished products in order to buy food.
Then his family migrated to the United States in 2006. They settled in Louisville where Nini attended Shawnee High School as a freshman. He didn’t get to play soccer that year but focused on getting acclimated to a new culture.
That acclimation was enhanced by after-school attendance at the Americana Community Center, a non-profit organization in Louisville that provides a variety of services for immigrant and refugee families.
“I was young and couldn’t read or write English,” said Nini. “I was helped there in getting my homework done. By my junior year I was able to do it all on my own.”
By that time he was also playing soccer, having transferred from Shawnee to Waggener High School. It was then he realized that college was an option. He was recruited by St. Catharine head coach Tim Wolz who has watched his student/athlete make steady progress on and off the field.
“When he first came I would ask him in team meetings if he understood what I was saying,” Wolz related. “He would nod yes but afterward would tell me he really didn’t get it. He has come a long way in just a year here. He gets along great with his teammates and cultural differences don’t seem to get in the way.”
Wolz added that Nini, a midfielder, has a very good work ethic and is “the major reason we will do well this year”.
And now Nini is going about helping others do well. Over the summer he worked at Americana teaching youngsters. Each morning it was reading and writing, in the afternoon it was soccer. He plans to return to Americana to volunteer whenever his breaks in college allow.
“Most people who help there are volunteers. You just love the kids there,” Nini said.
And the kids love Nini. St. Catharine assistant coach Boyzzz Khumalo, a native of South Africa, surprisingly showed up at Americana one day this summer. He treated the kids with some gear from his former D.C. United professional team. “It was great to see those kids smiling, laughing,” said Khumalo. “They see Nini as a role model. They can see now that they, too, can go to college.”
Nini, a psychology major, continues his goal to help others. “I want to go into social work. I want to give back to the community that helped me so much.”