Fort Bend County Deputy Tefera keeps promise, earns degree
By Brian Besch, Fort Bend Herald
June 1, 2013

Fort Bend County Deputy Haile Tefera and family
Fort Bend County Deputy Haile Tefera with his family on graduation day
Fort Bend County Deputy Haile Tefera made state history five years ago, becoming the first Ethiopian-born deputy sheriff in Texas. A promise he made then was to graduate college with a degree in criminal justice.

One week ago, Tefera kept his promise, graduating with honors from Wharton County Junior College. He has also earned an Associate’s Degree in criminal justice.

Tefera’s road was a long one, to say the least, and one that was documented in a 2008 article from the Herald.

In 1976, an 18-year-old Tefera was wanted by a dictatorial government that had recently been established after overthrowing Emperor Haile Selassie.

The new government was supported by East Germany and Russia and did not like Tefera, or anyone else, teaching students democracy and law. Torturing and killing students and teachers had become a normal practice. Anyone against the government was labeled an imperialist agent and killed.

Escape was Tefera’s best option.

“The journey was very difficult and very dangerous,” Tefera said. “The government was looking for us. They arrested my father, tortured and killed my older brother. My youngest sister had to leave town through the Red Sea; she went to Yemen. My other older brother, who is now living in Canada, went underground and left for Kenya Nairobi. I had no choice but to go underground and leave home whenever there was a possibility.”

Tefera was put into a refugee camp and later jailed after fleeing to Western Sudan. In June of 1981 he received sponsorship from an American family through Church World Services.

“I strongly believe United States gives an individual freedom and an opportunity to be a successful person. I came from Ethiopia where there is no individual rights, there is no rule of law and there is no freedom at all.

“It is a country where many journalists and political activists are thrown in prisons for life or 18 years for criticizing the government. In Ethiopia, the nation is divided in ethnic groups and a small minority ethnic group controls everything.

“Here in America, my sponsors from Columbus, Ohio gave me the opportunity to come here and become successful. They did not know me. They just opened their home, provided me with shelter and food and offered me to continue my education. Their generosity still is my drive to help others.”

He arrived in the United States in bare feet with only $11. He said hard work and dedication provided the opportunity to become successful.

When I came first to the United States, I worked two jobs and went to school at the same time,” Tefera said. “I stayed in one job for a long time and grew in my

position. My first job, I worked for 10 years. My second job, I worked for 18 years. The other main drive for my success is the opportunity I lost back home and want to make it up. With a lot of hard work, I was able to make it.”

A few months after arriving in Columbus, Tefera received a letter from his sister, saying she and her husband were in Houston. His sponsor family soon bought him a plane ticket to Texas.

In his way of giving back, Tefera has sponsored family and friends from Ethiopia, seven in all.

With jobs such as five star hotel manager, City of Houston Health Department, NASA, MD Anderson and nurse, each has become successful in their own way.

“For all of them, what they got from me was the opportunity to become successful,” Tefera said. “It is all their hard work that makes them successful. It is all about giving back. I got help, got the opportunity and the simple thing I can do is help others.”

In his spare time Tefera works organizing and giving leadership in a nonprofit organizations. He has served as a business manager for the Ethiopian Sports and Cultural Federation.

He has also worked as a business manager and founding board member for the Ethiopian Heritage Society in North America for two years.

It has been and will continue to be a busy time in Tefera’s life. In addition to his graduation on May 17, he celebrated 30 years of marriage to his wife, Aster, on Friday.

On June 8, his youngest daughter, Helen Haile, graduates from Kempner High school. Helen received the Silver Eagle presidential award from the White House at a city hall ceremony from the Mayor of Sugar Land. The award is the highest level of civic service honor that can be earned by young adults in the country. She and other fellow students held their ninth annual blood drive benefiting St. Luke’s Hospital and for the third consecutive year, reached a record harvest for donations by collecting more than 650 units.

June 8 will also mark Tefera’s fifth year working for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office.

“I would like to express my thankfulness to those who helped me, to those who opened their heart and supported me. Especially for Sergeant Leach (Police academy director and instructor at Wharton Police Academy) for believing in me. He recommend and encouraged me to continue my education after I graduated from the police academy.

“A special thank you for the Fort Bend County Sheriff office for giving me the chance to work, learn and gain experience as a Peace Officer.” - An African-American news and views website.
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