Jaye, College LAUNCH for Leadership (Charlotte)
The January Saturday Summit was truly something to remember. The first half of our day was dedicated to ACT prep, which was a continuation of last month’s lesson. In this session, we were taught tips and tricks to do well in the math section along with formulas that we may have forgotten/never learned. The best part about this section was that we, as individuals, could ask questions that benefitted the group (without being ostracized). Distributed to each student was a packet that had all of the concepts that are known to show up on the ACT, so that was really helpful as we were preparing for the upcoming exam. The tips that we were shown were taught by a well known ACT prep teacher.
The second half of the summit was where I, like the rest of my peers, absorbed the most information. This month’s lesson was about refugees and immigration. There was a panel of refugees, each from a different country. They were from Mexico, Ethiopia, and Vietnam. I learned that it is extremely difficult to flee from your home country due to war or other issues. I always knew that it was a challenge, but hearing it face to face from actual refugees made me realize how serious and dangerous it is, for that matter. Each refugee had their own story. One of the speakers from Mexico explained how she fled from domestic violence and wanted a better life for her children. Hearing her talk about her reasons broke my heart. The other two refugees fled their home country at a young age which made me realize how hard it must’ve been for them to experience this as children. When I was around their age, I had no care in the world and didn’t know what life was like outside of my town. These children had to grow up at such a young age and experienced more than what most adults this day in age will ever have to. At this point, I started to tear up. Hearing them talk about how their journeys affected who they are as a person made me understand that immigration is a very complex issue that changes one’s outlook on life. No one should ever have to go through what each of them experienced.
Along with why they fled from their country I learned more about the immigration process. The two refugees that fled from a young age said it was difficult adapting to their new lives in a completely foreign country. The refugee that fled from Vietnam explained how his disability and language barrier affected him in making friends and adjusting to school. The refugee from Ethiopia explained how she felt out of place in her new environment, but after a kind gesture from a fellow student, both the Vietnamese and Ethiopian refugees felt more comfortable.
I am usually a person that is updated on issues that affect my community so listening to their stories made me want to become involved even more in refugee/immigration organizations. My school hosts exchange students every few months so each time a new student arrives, I make sure to introduce myself and make them feel welcome. I know that it isn’t easy to adjust to a new environment, but if we students can reach out their hand by inviting them to sit with us at lunch, or helping them get acclimated to their new surroundings can make a huge difference in their experience.