Badger senior graduate Avdyl Jasiqi stood up on the Badger stage, having already received his diploma, to read the farewell senior graduation speech. Several times, he paused and got emotional, apologizing each time he did so.
“I would like to again say thank you to all of the faculty members (and families) for everything they have done for us. Sorry, umm, I would (also) like to give a very special thank you to my parents for sacrificing everything. Sorry,” Avdyl said during his speech, getting choked up, “to bring us to this country of unimaginable possibilities.”
By the end of his speech, he received a prolonged applause and soon after all those inside the Badger gym departed the graduation ceremony in honor of the 24 students graduating on May 23, 2021.
About 11 years ago, Jasiqi standing on that stage was anything but certain. Now the sacrifices his parents made for him and his two younger siblings had brought him to that moment on the Badger stage and that moment to stand up there holding his diploma as a first-generation American high school graduate.
He and his sister Aulona, a senior next fall at Badger High School, discussed where their family came from and when and why they immigrated to the U.S., and the transitions they had to make. They also discussed how they eventually ended up in Badger, what they have enjoyed most about growing up here, and their future plans moving forward.
The Jasiqi family immigrated from Kosovo, a country in southern Europe— north of Greece and south of Serbia. It gained its independence in 2008. Avdyl and Aulona were born and raised in the city of Decani, just outside the capital city of Pristina on the western side of the country.
Their family immigrated to the United States, specifically Pelham, N.Y., on August 7, 2009. At the time, Avdyl was six and going into first grade and Aulona was five and going into kindergarten. Avdyl had gone through kindergarten and first grade in Kosovo, but had to redo first grade in New York.
Their father, Besfort Jasiqi, explained how their story— the one leading up to them eventually immigrating to the U.S.— goes back 20 years. At that time, he was working as a cop, having recently graduated from police school.
“We had the war back then and we just got out of the war. And the United Nation brought police to just build the country and police force and everything, and that’s how I applied,” Besfort said. “… You need to have a good background and all that to become a cop there, so I went to finish police school.”
He finished this schooling and became a cop in 2001, about a month after 9/11. This police work introduced him to Badger resident Curt Hauger, who came to Kosovo as part of that mission to build up the police force in the area.
“That’s how I knew him and we hang out ever since we worked together with him, patrol together there,” Besfort said.
They worked together for about a full year. Curt and his wife Diann came to Besfort’s and his wife Gjevahire’s wedding in 2002. Curt would come and visit the Jasiqi family again in around 2004 to 2005 and in 2009. Out of this latest visit came his suggestion to the Jasiqi family to visit the U.S. The family did just that, visiting Badger for eight days.
“My mom and dad were just talking and they were saying how they’d absolutely hated it here (at) first,” Aulona said, referring to how they disliked the barren landscape. “But then we went back and they (Haugers) convinced us to move to America, so then they (my parents) applied for their visas.”
They decided to start in New York, as most of Gjevahire’s family lived there.
“Then after a year, they finally convinced us to just move to Badger because it’s just better to raise a family there,” Aulona said. “… So then that’s where we ended up.”
During that eight-day visit to Badger, Besfort described how he disliked the area at first, but quickly realized it was the place for his family. The family moved to Badger on June 28, 2010.
“I was like, man, I want to go back to New York, because there is nothing here. It’s all flat,” Besfort said. “And then we went there and that’s how we decided—just for a better life and better to raise your kids— it’s amazing here.”
Moving to the U.S., Aulona said she and her brother knew barely any English, having to go to speech classes in New York. Avdyl estimated that in under three months they had ended up catching on to the English language “pretty well.” It just continued to get better.
Getting accustom to America did bring some challenges, but Aulona acknowledged that it was surely harder for her parents than for them.
“I’m sure for Avdyl and I, it was easier because we were so young. It was easier to acculturate,” Aulona said. “But for my parents, I know it was harder, because they’re away from their family. They’re away from their parents, their sisters or brothers.”
Avdyl talked about these sacrifices further.
“We didn’t have a lot and my parents had to say goodbye to everything they knew to offer us that better life,” Avdyl said. “And I mean it was hard, and especially in New York, because it’s like really hard to immigrate there, especially because of how expensive it is in there.”
But, he said his parents worked really hard to get to where they are at now. Their dad works for TECHniques in Roseau, helping manufacture parts for Polaris, and their mom works for Oak Crest Senior Housing in Roseau.
“They made a lot of sacrifices along the way,” Avdyl said, “to provide us with everything that any other American kid would have.”
Aulona described what her parents did to bring their family from the very bottom to the top.
“They gave up everything. I mean, saying goodbye to their parents, saying goodbye to their culture,” Aulona said, “I know I couldn’t say goodbye to my parents right now. And for them to do it just a couple years older than Avdyl is just really hard.”
Besides moving to a new country, the family also had to get used to living in a smaller community, having lived in larger communities in Kosovo and New York.
“You live in this big city your whole life, a bigger city, and then you come to Badger with a population of 375,” Aulona said. “And it’s kind of like a culture shock because all up here it’s like hunting and fishing… We didn’t have that in New York. We didn’t have that in Kosovo.”
What was once a foreign place, in Badger, has now become something different for the Jasiqi family.
“It’s just our home,” Aulona said. “I feel… as comfortable as I can be here in Badger and we all do.”
Asked about the emotion he displayed during his speech, Avdyl got emotional in his response this time around too. He explained how it was already an emotional day to start with, but thinking about everything his parents did to get him to where he was added to that emotion. He’s proud of what his parents did, but sad for them for what they had to sacrifice along the way.
“It just makes me really proud that they’re my parents and that, sorry,” Avdyl said, getting choked up, “… they sacrificed a lot of what they knew for us. And it just gets to me because I know that I try really hard to make them proud of me, so what they did doesn’t go in vain. So I just tried to repay them back with taking every chance I can to make them proud.”
Avdyl will be attending the University of Minnesota Duluth next fall, where he plans to major in chemical engineering and possibly minor in biochemistry to get into the pharmaceutical field.
A senior next fall at Badger High School, Aulona wants to attend the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, looking to major in something health-related. Their younger brother, Aaron, who was born in Roseau, Minn., and will be a fifth grader next fall, has found success and opportunities at the Badger School.
To see the complete story, read the June 9 issue of The Tribune in print or online.