NHS grad ready for new life in Libya

Naugatuck High School's Muad Hrezi sits with his classmates during the graduation exercises Tuesday evening in Naugatuck at Veteran's Field. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — While many graduating Naugatuck High School students thought of beach trips and summer jobs, 17-year-old Muad Hrezi helped pack up his Coventry Lane house for a family move to Libya.

“It’s a big change, but I’m excited for it,” Hrezi said. “It will never be the same as it is today. There’s a great sense of freedom, nationalism. People are proud to be Libyans now.”

Hrezi was born in Tripoli to Libyan parents under the rule of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. When Muad was 3 years old, he, his mother and siblings moved to Connecticut to join his father, who was studying in the United States. They chose to become citizens of the United States rather than return to Libya, because of tensions in the North African nation, where no one was allowed to speak against Gaddafi.

“There wasn’t freedom there,” Hrezi said. “You just feel like, if you’re not careful, anything can happen to you.”

Hrezi visited Libya only once, when he was 7, but said he wanted to go back every summer to meet more of his family. “My parents would talk about my aunts and uncles … and they’re people I don’t even know,” Hrezi said.

An uprising last year ended in Gaddafi’s death and the opportunity for Hrezi and his family to move back home.

“As soon as it finished, the thought was already in their head,” Hrezi said.

Boxes are packed and the moving date is set for June 29, but Hrezi, a track-and-field star who finished 14th last week in a national competition, will come back in August to attend the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill on a track scholarship. He will major in health policy and management. During the eight-month civil war in Libya, Hrezi decided he wanted to get a medical degree in the United States and become a doctor in his homeland.

“They didn’t really have that many doctors,” Hrezi said. “They needed doctors there. People are dying.”

Walking across the stage Tuesday on Veterans Field with his fellow seniors, Hrezi cleared another hurdle on the track to helping his fellow Libyans.