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UMD Alumnus Yusuf Abdullah
Assistant Principal Yusuf Abdullah at Nellie Stone Johnson Middle School.


Alumnus Yusuf Abdullah: Leadership in Academics and Sports

When Yusuf Abdullah spoke at UMD in fall 2012, he brought an important message: "Strength and peace come from within."

Abdullah came to UMD from Racine, Wis. He was recruited by alumnus Harry Oden to play basketball. He worked with Ken Foxworth in the Student Equity Program, and he met a group of friends who encouraged him to join the Black Student Association. "At first I struggled," Abdullah said. "Very few people looked like me."

In his junior year, in a lecture hall as the only African American among 200 white students, Abdullah found his mantra. "As I sat in that classroom, I realized that my contribution was important. I was giving as much to my classmates as they were giving to me. I felt at peace."

Abdullah graduated in 1999 with a degree in education, then went on to earn his Master of Education from UMD in 2007. He worked hard and achieved strong success in all of his career moves, beginning at UMD as assistant basketball coach and admissions counselor. He worked at Dunwoody Institute and Henry High School and now is assistant principal at Nellie Stone Johnson Middle School. He never stopped coaching tumbling and basketball.

Abdullah married Nneka Harris, whom he met early on at UMD. Nneka ('05) earned her master's degree and now coordinates the Youth Career Awareness Program at Dunwoody Institute.

Wherever he has gone, from tumbling events with a group of American Indian children, to the Minneapolis Principals' Academy, Abdullah's message, "Peace comes from within," brings strength, power, and inspiration.

UMD Those who can, Duluth

Written by Cheryl Reitan, March 2013


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UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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