Julia Martins de Sa
17-year-olds Nour Shaker and Kaskile Rashidi first set foot in the United States in November of 2016.
“When I come to America, I didn’t know any word in English,” said Rashidi. “So when I came here, I was surprised, and I was scared.”
To overcome the language barrier in the U.S., Rashidi, a sophomore, and Shaker, a junior, both began studying at the Newcomers School, Rashidi in December and Shaker in January of 2017.
“It’s so cool,” said Shaker, referring to the school’s education system. “I like all the teacher and I learned here a lot of things how I can speak English and how I can write paragraph.”
Rashidi also appreciates how the community of teachers at the Newcomers School has helped wth his English.
“This school is good because of the teachers,” said Rashidi. “If you don’t know something, they focus to explain it to you and you will understand. And they help you with bags, books, rulers, pencils, … clothes and shoes. Many people from different countries, when they come to America, and they are in this state, they should come (to) Newcomers.
“And they will be good at English.”
Learning English has enabled Rashidi to form relationships with fellow students, something he now enjoys doing at school.
“I like to talk too much to everyone,” said Rashidi. “If I saw you’re quiet, I should talk with you. I should ask you what you do at home, and how it looks (in) your country.”
In addition to learning English, Rashidi and Shaker take three other classes.
“The first class I have … art class,” said Shaker. “We go and every time we have a different lesson, maybe one time about the sculpture, another time just draw something, like that. The second class I have science. We study about the volcano and the diversion, conversion, like that. It’s also awesome class. And the third class I have … academic language, we study there many word(s) and how I can write paragraph and how I can write in the past, in the future, in the present. The last class I have history. We study about America history, about the President Trump and all the founding father.”
As a sophomore, Rashidi takes math rather than art, but his favorite subject is history, as it allows him to continue learning about the U.S.
“History is important to know what (people) did,” said Rashidi. “ … and what they created, what country was this and things like that.”
Both Rashidi and Shaker are part of the student leaders group at the Newcomers School.
“Student leaders, that’s really the main club that we do,” said Abu Zaeem, principal of the Newcomers School. “They work a lot with, for instance, the Unity Day … and Red Ribbon Week, things like that. You get a core of students … (and) they work with different events. They attend different events here in the city to see what people are doing in terms of leadership and … to bring some of those ideas back and do them here.”
Shaker serves as the chair, and Rashidi serves as the secretary of the student leaders. They were selected by their teachers to serve in those respective roles. Their experience in the club has helped them with team building and collaborative skills.
“ … I am in the student leader,” said Shaker. “(I like) how we can work together without pay attention who you are and where are you from. That’s awesome, yes.”
The events that the student leaders organize address social justice values. Recently, the student leaders collectively organized the Newcomers School’s Unity Day, where they dressed up in self-designed orange T-shirts and spoke with other students about equity and unity. Through these events, studying at the Newcomers School has not only helped with their academics, but it has also provided meaningful life lessons.
“I have one more sentence that we understand here,” said Shaker. “Do not judge the outside the book, the inside is the most important and most beautiful.”