When Jerusalem, Frehiwot and Messay came to the Dregne home, they were surprised to find the kitchen in the house. At their orphanage, it is outside and has a dirt floor.

By Anna Marie Lux (GazetteXtra) |

JANESVILLE, Wis.―Jerusalem, Frehiwot and Messay were only children when Connie and Dennis Dregne adopted them from Ethiopia.

Now, six years later, the teens are poised to make their marks in the world.

Jerusalem and Frehiwot, who are 19, graduated from Craig High School on Wednesday, and Messay, who is 16, will graduate in January.

For Connie and Dennis, time has passed much too quickly.

“We did all these firsts with them,” Dennis said fondly, remembering when they first arrived. “We went swimming, bicycling. They were so driven to do everything.”

Then the teens got involved in homework, sports and jobs.

“That’s America,” said Frehiwot, whose name means “fruit of life.”

Friends and family call her “Frey.”

When the girls came to the Dregne home, they were surprised to find the kitchen in the house. At their orphanage, it is outside and has a dirt floor.

The girls spoke Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, a nation with more than 80 languages.

They knew little English but eagerly absorbed their new language as they learned about the United States.

“We thought America was all concrete, like New York City,” Frey said.

“We never thought there would be homeless people in America,” Jerusalem added.

“We have opportunity here,” Messay, or “Mezzy,” explained. “But no one is going to hand it to you.”

Sometimes school surprised them.

“I thought it was crazy when students did not show respect for the teachers,” Jerusalem said.

The teens have done well in their classes and have jobs and ambitions.

Jerusalem wants to be a flight attendant.

 

Continue reading this story at GazetteXtra
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