When Mohammed Amine Elmeghni started high school, he wasn’t just smaller than the juniors and seniors — at 12 years old, he was dwarfed by other freshmen.His size made him a target of bullies, as did his background as a Moroccan-born Muslim.
“I struggled to not let it affect my schoolwork, because in the classroom I was just an equal to the bullies,” he said as he sat with his mother in the spartan living room of their Dorchester apartment on a recent afternoon.
“Equal” isn’t quite the word.
According to faculty at TechBoston Academy, it was clear from the start that Elmeghni had intellectual gifts few could match. Now, at 16, he is the youngest valedictorian in the Dorchester school’s history. He will soon enter Syracuse University with a scholarship and ambitions of becoming a chemical engineer.
A slender young man of average height, Elmeghni says he owes his success partly to his natural abilities, partly to his desire to prove himself, and partly to the encouragement of his mother, Fatima Raji, who brought him and his two older sisters to the United States for opportunities unavailable in Morocco.
“I worked very, very hard for them,” said Raji, 56, as she recalled giving up a middle-class lifestyle and her job as a French teacher in an elementary school. She now works for a food-service company preparing pizzas, salads, and sandwiches at Fenway Park.
But she has no regrets. “I’m very proud of this baby,” she said, beaming. (Read More)