This Newscripts post is by Associate Editor Linda Wang:
It’s 1:00 AM in Anaheim, and Gergeis Yosef, 26, is wrapping up an eight-hour shift as a waiter at the Hilton. His bright cheerful eyes hide the fatigue that he feels inside. Yosef attends classes during the day at Irvine Valley Community College, where he is majoring in biology, and in the evening, he heads to his full-time job at the hotel.
Five years ago, Yosef arrived in the U.S. from Egypt alone with just $500 in his pocket. His first job was at a hotel cleaning rooms and washing dishes. After the hotel closed for renovations, he got a job at a gas station. Ironically, it was there that he was inspired to pursue his dream of getting an education.
It happened that the owner of the gas station was reading the book “Voyage Through Time: Walks of Life to the Nobel Prize” by Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail, who is also Egyptian and winner of this year’s ACS Priestley Medal. In the book, Zewail chronicles his early experiences as a boy growing up in Egypt and his work that led up to the Nobel Prize. Yosef borrowed the book and read it during his overnight shifts.
“This book really changed me,” Yosef says. “It changed how I look at the challenges in life. And it makes me look at my dream and say that maybe one day it can come true. What keeps me going is the faith that tomorrow will be better.”
Yosef’s story came to C&EN’s attention through ACS Executive Director and CEO Madeleine Jacobs, who met him earlier in the week while dining at the Hilton. She promised to bring Yosef a copy of C&EN signed by Zewail.
Yosef’s dream is to someday become a doctor. He and his wife, whom he met at his first job at the hotel, are expecting their first child. “It’s really hard having a family and a full-time job, but I’m sticking to my faith that I can do it,” he says.
We couldn’t believe in you more, Gergeis.
UPDATE: Jacobs came through with the copy of C&EN signed by Zewail. She hand-delivered it to a beaming Yosef Tuesday afternoon.
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