Ali Dali, a student at St. Clair College, in Windsor, Ont. on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 (Ricardo Veneza/CTV Windsor)

The mobile applications development program at St. Clair College is proving to be a launching pad to success for a student who has had his fair share of life-altering challenges.

Ali Dali, a Syrian refugee who has made a new home in Windsor, has returned to class — being held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and is finding success as a programmer that only years earlier seemed out of the question.

“I was on my own. I left Syria with a friend from high school and all the way to Germany, I was on my own,” said Dali. “I didn’t have any one of my family there.”

Dali fled his native Syria in 2015 at just 19 years old because of war in the country. At one point, he jumped on a raft from neighbouring Turkey to Greece with about 50 people to find safety.

From there, he made his way to Germany where he stayed for three years.

“Honestly, when I was in Germany, I had that feeling like I would never see my family again,” said Dali.

In June of 2018, Dali was reunited with his family, who had already found their way to Windsor.

As he settled into a new life in a new country, Dali decided to pursue an interest in programming at St. Clair College.

“For me, like, programming is fun,” said Dali. “It’s like, they say, ‘If you love what you do you’re never actually working.’”

Even in Dali’s free time, he spends hours programming and tinkering with code.

His skill hasn’t gone unnoticed, already attracting clients on the development platform Fiverr from Canada and the U.K., where he developed an app called ‘Trade A Trade’ that’s found some success.

“It was kind of like larger than I ever took or made before,” said Dali. “I just took it, accepted the risk and it turns out to be a very great app.”

The app allows users to trade services for other services.

Dali’s professor at the Zekelman School of Business and Information Technology, Peter Nikita, agrees the young student is becoming a skilled software developer.

“Ali has the traits that all successful people have: he is responsible, kind, honest, a hard-worker and is passionate in everything he does,” said Nikita.

Dali is in his third year of the program and plans to continue working freelance while going to school. He also plans to build on his education by moving into the study of artificial intelligence.

“Ali is a really good example of how a person who is passionate about learning combined with a superior education builds an exceptional person,” said Nikita. “Ali is one of these people.”

Although the pandemic has forced classes online and kept classmates apart, Dali describes his small class as a family at the college.

As many of his peers work to adjust to the difficulties of a global pandemic, Dali hopes his own success in the face of terrifying challenges can serve as an example of perseverance.

“All hard time will pass and everything like in the beginning will be hard but, everything in time, you can achieve anything,” said Dali.