To Whom It May Concern:
For me, the University of Minnesota Men's Track and Field Program is a family, a life, and everything I am today. Please allow me to explain what I mean when I say this. I came to the United States of America as a refugee from Ethiopia in 2006. I settled in Fridley, Minnesota, and attended Fridley high school. As a refugee and a black man in this country, going to the University of Minnesota was out the picture for me, especially when my parents worked two jobs and still could not put enough food on the table. As I was struggling to even graduate from high school and trained and worked after school with no motivations for a future, I received a phone call that changed my life forever. That phone call came from the head coach at the University of Minnesota Men's Track and Field Steve Plasencia and assistance coach Paul Thornton. These are the two individuals who made me think of going to college and showed me the way out.
While I was in Minnesota, I was lucky enough to be a 7 time All-American and 5 time Big Ten Champion, as well as an Olympic trials qualifier, but most importantly, I was the first person in my family to go to the University of Minnesota who received a degree. During my time there, I met my new family and started my life. I met my best friends and my role models. It gave me my coaches, who I look up to like my father figure, and my teammates who I see as my brothers. It's a rare bond. Still, today whenever I face hardships in life, it could be family related or athletics-related, my track family are the first people I call, and they are ALWAYS there for me.
Honestly, track is my life and the University of Minnesota Men's Track and Field team has made that happen for me. I now live in Oregon, where I ran professionally for Nike and Oregon Track Club Elite for the past 6 years. The Minnesota Men's Track and Field program helped me create the life I am living today. I can guarantee you I would not be who I am or where I am today if it wasn't for the strong track and field program. It is the reason I'm still doing what I love to do and chasing my dream of becoming an Olympian one day. I am not the only person this program had this type of impact on and I know there are many more to come.
I know my time at the University of Minnesota was memorable with many life opportunities. Please do not take that away from future black, unprivileged young men, like me.
This decision to discontinue the program not only impacts current athletes, but it will negatively impact the entire University community, alums, and many future generations. We all have a responsibility towards creating opportunities for unprivileged young individuals. That is how we grow. I can only imagine what the future generation will do for the University of Minnesota, the state of Minnesota, for their community, for their family, and for themselves with the resources that the University of Minnesota Men's Track and Field program provides.
Thank you for your time and for your supports. Ski-U-Mah
Class of 2013
University of Minnesota