Rust Belt New Americans: A Showcase of Erie's Refugee Population

Ferki Ferati


Ferki Ferati is more than just a man in a suit. This 33-year-old Jefferson Educational Society executive director and vice president is a great example for every new American in Erie and beyond.

His story of perseverance is inspiring. No matter where you go there are always new opportunities and hope. The Rust Belt city of Erie gave Ferati a chance to live the American dream.

In his executive office Ferati spoke mostly of the educational opportunities he received in Erie. Coming to America for the first time can be very strange and at times scary. Arriving in Erie in 1999, he met people who welcomed him by funding his high school education at Mercyhurst Preparatory School, a Catholic-based high school on the upper east side of Erie. Ferati was a very determined young man. "I was exposed to the idea that you need an education to be successful in America."

After graduating from Mercyhurst Prep, Ferati entered Mercyhurst University, graduating with a degree in Intelligence Studies. Soon after, he enrolled in Gannon University, graduating with his Masters in Public Administration.

Ferati had an idyllic life on the family farm in his homeland of Kosovo. Carefree days spent with friends or traveling with siblings were cut short in 1997 when his region of Mitrovica was attacked by the regime of Slobodan Milošević, the former president of Yugoslavia. Milošević’s ethnic cleansing started by targeting Albanians in Kosovo. Within a year and a half, Ferati's family had to flee where they soon were resettled in Erie.

Ferati is currently finishing his doctoral studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

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