It’s not an easy thing migrating to a new country. Having to adapt to a new environment; navigating your way through language barriers, learning new norms and wanting to feel included all at the same time is challenging.  And of course thriving is a whole other story. 

Sahar and her family escaped conflict in Syria as asylum seekers, in search of a better life in America. 

We met the family in 2016 when two of Sahar’s children attended Gunston Middle School. Our CIS coordinator at Gunston, Rula, worked with Karim (a 6th grader at the time), Sahar’s youngest son to ensure he felt a sense of belonging, made friends, and was exercising his fullest potential. 

It was clear to Rula that Karim was a bright kid, with a passion for learning and excelling quickly. She made sure he had ample opportunities to develop his English language skills and enrolled Karim in career exploration programs; acculturation groups for students from around the world, and worked with him on language proficiency through our Homework Club. Two years later, Karim, now an 8th grader at Gunston is fluent and not only excelling academically, but sits on his school’s Student Council Association representing and serving his peers across the school community. 

In addition to surrounding Karim with a supportive environment at school, our site coordinator continues to make home visits and link the family to essential resources and opportunities to engage and be included in their school and home community. Today Karim’s mum, Sahar will also be co-facilitating APS’s first ever family orientation program in Arabic, in partnership with CIS. Karim is very proud of her and says “I can’t believe my mum is going to be training other parents”, but we recognized early she would be a pioneer parent amongst her peer group. 

This story of migration in hopes of a better life is common in our schools, but it’s not very often that migrant students and their families have the opportunity to voice their concerns, address their diverse needs, feel included and go on to become leaders in their school communities soon after. Through the caring relationship, faith and commitment of our CIS site coordinators – it is possible though.