Against All Odds


This year, Rabbi Elimelech Ya’akov, legendary principal of Boys Town Jerusalem, found it more difficult than ever to select the four top students for valedictorian awards at the Class of 2011 commencement ceremony. So many students had made such outstanding accomplishments that the task was a daunting one. Yet one graduate, Netanel Aharoni, had already received a priceless, if not “official” prize from Rabbi Elimelech, which will serve him well for life.

Despite many odds, the principal had awarded his full trust and belief in Netanel’s abilities, from the moment the youngster entered Boys Town in eighth grade. It was the gift of this trust that ultimately transformed Netanel from one of the weakest in his class to one of most outstanding young men in the student body. “When he first arrived, Netanel lagged far behind in his knowledge of all basic academic subjects,” the principal recalled. “He soon became a behavior problem as well. But I sensed his strong spirit and his will to struggle, and I never doubted that he could overcome any obstacle that stood in his path.” “It was really hard for me at first,” Netanel admitted.

“I never knew how to study, and I needed pretty intensive tutoring. I had lots of ups and downs—mostly downs”during my first years at the school. But my teachers and Rabbi Elimelech were there to support me. I can’t remember even one time that the rabbi wasn’t there for me when I needed help.” “As time went on,” he continued, “I discovered two subjects that became my passions: Jewish studies and electronics. The Jewish studies strengthened my mind and my soul, and electronics completely fascinated me. I began to change.” “By 11th grade, Netanel was able to channel the strength he’d mustered over the years to confront his difficult matriculation exams,” Rabbi Elimelech noted. “He well understood how crucial it was for him to succeed, and he studied very seriously to pass each exam with honor.” The rabbi is quick to praise his student’s very practical, yet very considerate nature. “After school, Netanel works nights as a waiter so that he can help support his family. He takes nothing from them, but makes great pains to give as much as he can.”

Following high school, Netanel has been accepted to the prestigious College of Applied Engineering (CAE) program at Boys Town Jerusalem, a two-year curriculum to train him for a top-level technical assignment in the Israel Defense Forces. “It’s an amazing accomplishment for Netanel to join the CAE program– a real tribute to his ambition, aspirations, and sheer willpower,” Rabbi Elimelech declared. “He’s come a long journey, and is now boundless in his ability to succeed and to contribute to his nation.” “My years at Boys Town passed so quickly,” Netanel mused. “I’ve learned discipline, and I’ve learned to think. Now I’m looking forward to my studies at CAE to prepare me for the IDF and for a good profession in life. No one could ask for a greater start than what I was given at Boys Town Jerusalem!”

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