Second-generation Immigrant Struggles to Find Motivation of his Parents

Ezana Gebru (left) has found that he has never had the work ethic his parents do. The son of two Ethiopian immigrants who raised four kids while going to school and working full time, Gebru had the American Dream drilled into him. Seven years of college later, he is a part-time waiter and nearly ready to graduate from Missouri State University. This story is part of the "American Next," a special project exploring the hopes, fears and changing expectations of Missouri's next generation in challenging times. (Photo: Ezana Gebru with co-worker Jason Parker after the two finish a shift at Touch Restaurant / by Megan May)


SPRINGFIELD — Late at night, he used to relax in the glow of the television as his mother finished her homework. Ezana Gebru, a sixth-grader at the time, would sprawl out in the green leather chair and watch reruns of old sitcoms, mainly “Seinfeld,” before falling asleep.

Meanwhile, in the darkened living room, after a full day of work, an evening of college classes and the normal duties as mother to Ezana, his older brother and two younger sisters, Selamawit Asfaw would be at work once again: papers strewn across the table, math textbook open.

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