From War to Poverty, to a Stable Life

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By Vedad Jazic

Editor: Katie Williams

In his home office hangs a diploma from Oakland University, next to a Shinola clock and a family portrait – the three objects, beside one another, each symbolic for the journey to success that he has faced. The home office, clean and equipped with several computers and laptops, is where Avdo Jakupovic, an Oakland University alumnus, works his job as a Team Lead at an IT company.

Jakupovic graduated from Oakland University in 2013 and has successfully built a career in IT in the years following his graduation. On this day, a cold Wednesday afternoon, as we’re sitting in his home office, he tells me about his journey to where he is now and how his success story is one that he could not imagine growing up.

“I was born in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” he begins, “which, as many people may or may not know, is a country that went through a brutal civil war in the mid-90s. We moved here, to the United States, in the mid-90s when I was just a kid to escape the war. It was brutal. My dad was in a camp for nearly a year, and barely made it out alive. My parents and I did not speak the language, and we settled down in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Hamtramck,” he explains.

Nostalgia fills the room as he goes on to explain that, after his dad was able to save enough money and his little brother was born, his family bought their first home in Hamtramck in the late 1990s.

“It wasn’t much, but we finally had our very own space. Our neighborhood in Hamtramck was a lower income neighborhood, so I remember growing up with food stamps and watching my dad work hard to put food on the table for our family,” he describes.

A few more years went by, and his dad’s hard work paid off as he earned a promotion, and he and his family moved to Troy, Michigan.

“Moving to Troy when I was entering middle school was a bit of a culture shock,” Jakupovic remembers. “We were so thankful to be able to move to a safe neighborhood, but I went through middle school and high school watching my friends, whose parents were wealthier, be able to get anything they want while my parents were still learning the language and working hard just to be able to keep up with the financial demand that owning a home in Troy had.”

Jakupovic goes on to explain how he would play street hockey with his neighborhood friends and use a home-made hockey stick while his friends were using expensive hockey sticks their parents bought them. He notes how important that was for him to experience growing up, as it allows him to have that perspective now and be thankful for everything he can afford and have access to.

With such a vast journey, from a war-torn country to a low-income neighborhood, to an upper-middle class neighborhood, Jakupovic’s experience in that journey motivated him to work hard and build a stable life. “It motivated me to see my parents work hard. One of the reasons we moved to Troy so that my brother and I could get a better education. I am so thankful for that.”

Jakupovic believes this motivation to be one of the reasons he was able to be so successful at Oakland
University and become the first immediate member of his family to graduate from a university.

“My life is vastly different now from how I grew up, as I have a stable income and a safe place to live,” he adds. “But I’m also really thankful for my upbringing because I do not take all of this for granted. It helped me work harder and appreciate all of the great things I have today.”

Thankful for the opportunity to share his story with people out there who may be going through, or may have gone through, a similar upbringing, Jakupovic points to his degree, his clock, and his family portrait again. “That’s why they’re there, to remind me of my journey of success, and the people that inspired me to get to where I am today,” he says.

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