St. Paul Central's Getenet Tuji is going to Northwestern on a soccer scholarship, but the senior forward from Ethiopia needed help from a friend's mother to get it.
An inquisitive mother helped secure a brighter future for someone she had never met.
St. Paul Central senior Getenet Tuji will sign a national letter of intent to play soccer at Northwestern University on Wednesday afternoon and he credits Catherine Day for making it possible.
"She made everything really easy," Tuji said. "A lot of people helped me, but mostly it's really her."
Known as "Ms. Forde" to Tuji, Day made an extra effort to become a part of the soccer player's life after learning of him through her daughter's story. In the fall of 2011, Kara Forde explained how her friend, Tuji, had received a handwritten letter from the Northwestern soccer coach. The details didn't go much further. Tuji moved to the United States from Ethiopia when he was in fourth grade. It took him two years to learn English and his parents still struggle to communicate. The language barrier, a heavy work load, and unfamiliarity with the recruiting process left Tuji's parents confused.
"They don't know a lot about the stuff going on in college," Tuji said. "It's a completely different environment here."
Day's background in higher education and college success kept Tuji's abilities on the soccer field and in the classroom from being overlooked. With the help of her daughter, Day approached Tuji's family about their son's gifts. Soon afterward, the family drove Tuji to Northwestern.
It was during this unofficial visit last spring that Northwestern offered him close to a full scholarship. The 4.2 grade-point-average student, enrolled in International Baccalaureate curriculum at St. Paul Central, also considered Stanford and Wake Forest before settling on Northwestern in June.
Tuji skipped his senior soccer season at St. Paul Central to play for the Minnesota Thunder Academy. Advisor Rob Zahl said Tuji is one of the academy's most well-rounded individuals.
"A lot of times these guys slip through the cracks," Zahl said about players and families from foreign countries. "He's on the radar, but could have not followed through [to seek help in the recruiting process]. They don't know any better. Parents like [Day] don't need to do it, but go and help."
Tuji said he's a little scared to attend the academically prestigious university, but hopes "to take these opportunities and really help my family in the future."