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The Long Way Home to HNU
Nobel Hadgu '18 finds his path as a coach
Nobel Hadgu

For Nobel Hadgu ’18, 26, life began at the tail end of a civil war whose effects would disrupt his education and force his family to scatter across a continent by the time he was 10. Born in Ethiopia, Hadgu spent his early childhood in Eritrea, where schools might seat 15-year-olds alongside second graders, and parents often pulled students out of class if they needed them to work. Hadgu and his family saw education as a great privilege.

Soon, his father, a physician esteemed for his work fighting AIDS, had to flee to Kenya. His mother secured a U.S. visa. Hadgu, then 16, wasn’t eligible to emigrate because he was too close to military draft age. Fortunately, two years later he and his younger sister reunited with the family in San Francisco, where he attended George Washington High School.

After a path that included junior college and working in the worlds of fashion and culinary arts, Hadgu was ready to go back to school and learned of Holy Names’ soccer program through a friend.

Says Hadgu, “Being an immigrant, you aren’t hip to the game of how you get yourself into college,” he recalls. “When I got my acceptance letter to HNU, my mom cried.”

My parents gave up everything for me to be here in the U.S. What they want to see more than anything is for their kids to live up to the potential they have.”

Through coaching and working at soccer camps for kids, Hadgu says it became clear to him that his professional calling lies in coaching young people. “It may have taken me eight years to get a four-year degree, but I know what I want to do now,” he says. “What centers me is understanding that I’m running my own race.”

Today, Hadgu is a soccer coach at his former high school and works part-time at HNU as an instructional technologist. In his role, he helps coach faculty on the use of the University’s online learning management system and bringing courses online. “It’s been an interesting transition from student to consultant. I always make sure to meet faculty where they are, similar to coaching. I have a powerful voice as a recent graduate because designing our classes from the student perspective is the most important thing we can do.”