To those who know her best, Shadle Park senior Nyabol Lual seldom has a bad day.
In fact, she’s had many – days that stretched into a decade in an Ethiopian refugee camp before Lual and her family reached the United States and ultimately Spokane.
Her remarkable story will continue this fall at Eastern Washington University, where Lual will pursue a degree in education.
Lual was born in Ethiopia after her family fled violence in their native Sudan. She recalled hunger and deprivation, but also a sense of community that bonded through hard times.
“Some days we just had to go without food, and it was hard,” said Lual, who also had to babysit her niece while an older sister worked. For years they waited as other families moved ahead of them on the immigration list.
“It was frustrating,” Lual said.
School was almost an afterthought, even as Lual grew up speaking several languages.
None of them translated well into English when her family of eight finally emigrated to the United States in 2014. Lual made the transition from camp life to a new one on Spokane’s South Hill.
“It was very new,” said Lual, whose family stayed briefly in a hotel. She recalled her father going down the hall and naively asking a neighbor for tea.
“Culture shock,” Lual called it.
School was also a challenge. She started at Lincoln Heights Elementary School, then enrolled at Spokane International Academy for the next three years.
By the time Lual was ready for high school, the family had settled in northwest Spokane and she enrolled at Shadle Park.
Since her freshman year, Lual has embraced the high school experience.
She’s a member of the Shadle S.H.E. Women of Purpose Group, participated in a service-learning project to feed women at a local shelter and spoken to her classmates about empowerment at the Shadle Park Women’s March.
Recently, Lual participated in the “You Matter” Lunch and Learn event, a community-building activity for students.
“I’ve known Nyabol since she was a freshman, and it’s been a joy to see her blossom,” said her counselor, April Eberhardt.
“She’s a very personable, sweet person, and you never know if she’s having a bad day,” Eberhardt said. “I just think she’s a leader, but she doesn’t look for the limelight.”
Instead, Lual has supported other young women and brought in new members to the Shadle S.H.E. group, Eberhardt said. She shares her own insights so that she can connect with her peers, and she follows through with projects.
“This is infectious in interactions that she has with her peers,” Eberhardt said. “She is a natural leader who puts others before herself.”
Lual plans to continue serving others through teaching, and said she was inspired by several teachers in middle and high school.
“They cared for the students and you could tell they wanted to be there and included me in a good way,” Lual said. “I want to do more work here but I also want to teach abroad.”