Don Geci

Don Geci

American Albanian Don Geci, nearly died several times as an infant from febrile seizures. That was when the now-16-year-old Lake View High School junior’s family was escaping a war in Kosovo from 1998 to 1999 that would claim thousands of lives and create hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Ajtene carried Don, the youngest of her three children, for miles and miles through mountains, forests and rivers. The family — her husband Besnik, a daughter and two sons — survived four months in the wilderness before reaching neighboring Macedonia.

There, they joined other refugees on their way to Iceland, New York and finally San Diego. When they arrived in California, they had less than $50 to their name and only the clothes on their backs.

Most of the family now lives in Lakeview — where Don Geci is his high school’s second-ranked student and aspires to be an astrophysicist. He is also Lake View High’s top swimmer, powering through the pool with the same determination it took for his parents to start anew in the United States.

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