Last month my daughter made it to the county spelling bee after winning her own school bee. I was so excited to cheer her on along with students from schools all over Potter County. As we arrived early to check in, I spotted a familiar face walking up to the school. My friend Habiba, who comes to our ESL classes with her husband each week, was bringing her son to the competition too!
We watched in amazement as Habiba’s son Farrah out-spelled most of the other students to place 5th in the bee. His sisters and mom took videos and pictures and beamed with pride at their boy on the stage.
What stands out to you about this story? Maybe you think it’s amazing that a young boy could have such excellent spelling capabilities while his mom still struggles to read English. Maybe you are astounded that a fifth grader outcompeted most of the area’s middle school champions. Or maybe, like me, you are struck by the gap between adult refugees and their children.
Habiba and her husband are from Somalia, and have been here for many years. They have both been granted US citizenship and spent several years working in meatpacking plants before recently securing less physically demanding jobs at Amazon. Even though they both work full-time, they are supporting their kids’ education and, in their limited free time, trying to work on their own language skills.
The top concern of virtually all refugee families who find their way to Amarillo is to ensure the future success of their children. It’s why stories like this, with children surpassing the education level of their hardworking parents, stand out to us. Parents have often lost so much – their own careers, businesses, farms, homes, and wealth – before working to rebuild their lives in America. But as they rebuild, it’s their dreams for their children that often have the first chance at coming true. They persevere for their children’s chance at flourishing. It’s what we’d do too, right?
In fact, did you know that our partner organizations at The PLACE have an after-school program aimed at helping kids with homework Monday through Thursday? Volunteers, snacks, and homework help are always on tap for these kids, supporting refugee adults by serving their children. Preserving the honor and dignity of adults and children in refugee communities? Now that’s how you spell success.