Q: How did your journey from Syria to America start?
Scott Safadi: It started in Damascus, Syria, which is now in the midst of a civil war. At the age of 2, my family relocated to the U.S. to start a new life. One of my uncles had previously made the same move to pursue a career in engineering. Mom and Dad separated soon after the move, which was a difficult decision for both of them. A major supporter during this time was my Dad’s mother, who followed shortly after their separation in order to help around the house.
Q: What was it like to acclimate to American culture?
Scott Safadi: Our family moved around California often during these years. Since my family wasn’t fluent in English, I learned the language listening to the characters on Sesame Street. During my middle school years, Dad allowed me to change my name from the Syrian “Ghais” to “Scott,” since my given name “Ghais” was quite difficult for Americans to pronounce.
Dad worked evenings in restaurant management, generally with low wages and few benefits. Despite all the financial hardships, education was always important in my development. Eventually, after numerous back surgeries and other operations, he filed bankruptcy in the late 1990s, but not before ensuring that I attended the best schools available.
Q: What happened after you graduated from high school?
Scott Safadi: Good grades and financial need helped me win free tuition at Dartmouth, which proved to be a remarkable blessing and paved the way for my future successes both personally and professionally. The environment there fostered a true love of learning. After returning to the Bay Area in 2003, I had the opportunity to create a property management firm. My life here has been very blessed. Now I have a wife and a young daughter, so the years ahead will be challenging but fulfilling.