Published Mon, Jul 22, 19.
Written by Scott Chleborad.

Sports metaphors are helpful when it comes to understanding the value of a high school diploma in a developing country like Ethiopia. But it's no mere game for the 52 graduates from Adams Thermal Academy Hosanna (ATAH) who received their diplomas on Saturday, June 29th. 

This past April, international news outlets were lit up with the story out of India where 20 students committed suicide when they received the wrong scores on their national exams due to a computer glitch. More than 50,000 other students were requesting re-verification of their national exam scores. When you're competing against generational cycles of devastating poverty, the stakes are high and the game is very serious. 

Students at ATAH are enrolled from families who can't afford to send their children to public school. Even as students grow older and their help is needed at home for the family to survive, they remain in the ATAH program for a chance at beating the lifestyle and the social status they've come from. A private school that pays all the expenses plus food, clothing and medical care is the only way for these students to end up on a winning team.

But the opposition is fierce and won't give up without a fight. In an economy where greater than 80% of the workforce is engaged in agriculture, help is always needed with planting, harvesting and caring for animals. Poor families often move to where work can be found or to be closer to relatives. Poor nutrition and access to health care results in learning disabilities and development challenges. Or sick family members need extra care and attention. All of these factors impact students at ATAH and often put them on the sidelines when it comes to finishing their education. Ethiopia maintains one of the highest drop-out rates in the world - just more than 50 percent of enrolled children complete an elementary education. Participation rates fall off sharply at higher levels of schooling. 

Still, ATAH is training to win. Our teachers are among the most well-paid with benefits and opportunities to advance their professional degrees. Our facilities are viewed as some of the best in the area and within the past two years, interactive learning opportunities have been added in the sciences and through an internet-equipped computer lab. Students attend full-day classes as opposed to half-days in the public sector and also benefit from a meal program and full-time medical staff. ATAH students score among the highest academically in the region, not only due to the resources invested in them, but also because they realize the magnitude of the opportunity they've been given. 

Since Adams Thermal Foundation was formed in 2013 for the purpose of assuming responsibility for the schools in Hosanna and Ottoro Ethiopia, there has been a strategic focus upon adding grade levels every year until 12th grade is fully operational and turning out graduates to pursue post-secondary degrees. For the Academy in Hosanna, 2019 was the first year that 12th graders could cross the finish line and earn their diploma. 
Visitors traveled from the United States to join students, staff, parents and family members on Saturday, June 29th. As the graduates took to the field in their bright blue and yellow uniforms (gowns), the crowd went wild as one-by-one, the graduates stepped up and received their certificates. It was a spectacular day for everyone involved and a major milestone for Adams Thermal Academy. As the endgame concluded the score was "Graduates" 52, and poverty zero. The 2019 graduating class sent 52 talented and grateful young men and women on to local and regional universities to study medicine, engineering, computer science and pharmacy. 

If we are winners and champions for the moment, it is only because God is good and faithful. He has blessed us with a great team of supporters, sponsors, donors and friends. Thank you for cheering us on and keeping us in your prayers. We look forward to the Class of 2020 in Hosanna and hopefully, our first graduating class from Ottoro in 2021!

If you'd like to be part of this winning team, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at or call 888-750-4199! If you "Liked" or "Shared" this story on social media, let us know and we'll send you a digital copy of the 2019 ATAH Graduate Yearbook as our way of saying "thanks".