MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As a University of North Dakota student gets ready to graduate this fall, his one wish is to see his mom again.

“He was just a sweet kid. He had that infectious smile that he still has today,” Bryan Sherva said.

Born in a refugee camp in the middle of a civil war in Africa, Teddy Sherva’s mom wanted him to have a better life. When he was 6, he arrived in Minnesota to live with his grandmother. Because of her job, she eventually couldn’t care for Teddy.

“Because of that, according to the state of Minnesota, he became deemed as homeless,” Bryan said.

The teachers that had worked closely with Teddy knew he deserved better. He had overcome a learning disability and had boundless determination – all he needed was a home.

“His ESL teacher April Fuller approached me, knowing I had kids of the same age, and asked if I would be willing or interested in taking Teddy in until the end of the year of his 5th-grade year,” Bryan said.

Fifth grade turned into 6th grade, then junior high, then high school. He grew as a student and an athlete. The Sherva family fell in love and adopted Teddy, all while knowing that one day he hoped to be reunited with his mom.

“For as long as I can remember, he talks about his mom. He talks about wanting to see his mom again and how much he misses her,” said April Fuller, one of Teddy’s former teachers.

“She’s a very nice lady, very calm. She would do anything for me,” Teddy said.

The Sherva family created a GoFundMe page with the goal of flying Teddy’s mom here so she can see him graduate from the University of North Dakota – a 6,000-mile journey that’s been 16 years in the making.

“It’s going to be very emotional. I’m nervous, to be honest. I don’t know how I’m going to react, you know? I’m going to be crying for sure,” Teddy said.

“She holds a special place in his heart,” Bryan said. “Seeing that first hug of them reuniting is going to be a special, special day.”

The money the Sherva family is trying to raise would cover travel expenses for his mom, Patricia. They are also hoping she can stay through the holidays.

John Lauritsen