When We All Work Together

June 19, 2018

“There is no “us” or “them”. We are different, yes, but in the same way that we are different from anyone else. We have all lived different experiences, and some of us are privileged to have experienced the lives that we have.”—Tea Student 2
The Tea Area High School Spanish instructor, Ms. Mahli Garry, and 6 of her Spanish III students along with students from Mitchell, SD, spent the morning with our students during their English classes. The students had the opportunity to observe and interact with English learners at all levels.
Additionally Ms. Garry and her students had a school-wide fundraiser raising 144 folders, 67 notebooks, 876 erasers, 2957 pencils for the students at LSS. The class who could raise the most had the opportunity to pie their teacher, and Ms. Garry was the honored recipient.

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LSS Education Program Assistant Diana Streleck, Tea Area Spanish Instructor Mahli Garry, and Tea Spanish III students with supplies raised for the LSS students.

After visiting LSS, students reflected on their experience. One student (3) said, “The days leading up to the trip I was quite nervous. I had no idea what to expect from these refugees. I honestly didn’t want to go on the trip all together. I felt like I was going to be so out of my comfort zone that it would be ‘painful.’” But now, “This experience will have quite a lasting effect on me. Actually getting to see the refugees and understand the process a refugee must go through to get relocated to a place such as LSS was a very humbling moment.”
Additionally a student commented, “I had many favorite moments during the trip, but I enjoyed hearing about the various cultures. I knew that I was confronting the description of ‘America is a melting pot’ head on.” And yet another student remarked, “Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the students at Lutheran Social Services. I would highly recommend this field trip to other high school students. This was an amazing opportunity to gain a better understanding of our area and the world we live in. With all of the talk in the media, I feel that it is important for students to have the opportunity to form their own opinions of the world and the people that live within it.”

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Students from Tea visit one-on-one with LSS English students.

LSS ESL Instructor Supervisor Laura Smith-Hill said, “[The high school] students did a wonderful job interacting with ours and I am so pleased that they continue to find value in this experience as do we.”
This is the third consecutive year that Ms. Garry and her Spanish students have had toured and volunteered in classes as a cross-cultural field trip. A big Thank You Ms. Garry and the Spanish III class for your dedication and continued support.

 


Nadifa – A Success Story Continues

May 22, 2018

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A while ago I introduced you to Nadifa Mahamed, who came to Sioux Falls in 2010 with her family as refugees from Chad, West Africa. Nadifa came with no English but a powerful drive to learn, to learn everything she didn’t have the opportunity to learn back in Africa. She navigated the American school system and graduated from high school. She just finished her sophomore year at University Center, forging a path for herself that is uniquely her own.
Nadifa has grown into a confident young lady who knows what she wants to do in the future. She has been asked several times to share her story, a story that she hopes will inspire other young people to go after their dreams.
Last December the South Dakota Board of Regents was meeting in Sioux Falls and Nadifa was invited to speak to the Board – an event that would have a huge impact on her future as a student. The board members were touched by the fact that she was willing to share her personal story and they visited with her privately after the meeting. The president of a university and a local writer, all wanted to help Nadifa.
One board member in particular took a few more minutes to talk to Nadifa – and gave her the most incredible news: he was going to pay her tuition – every semester from now on until she finished her undergraduate degree! Nadifa couldn’t believe her ears, she was crying, she was smiling, she was shaking, she was so happy! And all this generous man wanted in return was to be kept updated on her courses and grades. No problem there.
Nadifa still works part-time as a food ambassador at Avera and an administrative assistant at LSS-Center for New Americans. But Nadifa feels no more financial pressure. In the fall, she will start her junior year at SDSU at the University Center, majoring in sociology with a minor in human resources.
After graduation, she plans on being involved with non-profit organizations, working with empowering women and girls of color to become strong, independent individuals. Eventually she plans on having her own non-profit whose mission will strive to end arranged marriage and child marriage, issues she feels very strongly about. “If we had stayed in Africa, I know I would be married by now with several children, but we came to America, where I can be free!” Nadifa says.
I am sure we will hear more from Nadifa in the future!

Written by Silke Hansen, LSS English Instructor at the Center for New Americans


51 Students Visit Pierre

March 22, 2018
students enjoy the sunshine on the capitol steps

Students Enjoy the Sunshine on the Capital Steps

Wednesday, February 28, was a busy day for many Sioux Falls refugees and immigrants. Waking up early in the morning and boarding a bus, 51 adult English language learners, 3 teachers, and 1 volunteer spent the day traveling to Pierre, SD, to see the state capital, watch the House session, meet the governor, talk with government officials, visit the Korean and Vietnam War Memorial, and tour the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center. It was a fun day for everyone!

Representing 15 countries, the students met with Senator Reynold Nesiba, Laura Trapp of the Department of Labor, and Policy Advisor Matt Konenkamp. They also were able to have a photo with Governor Daugaard in the capital rotunda, and Representative Tom Holmes gave a warm welcome to the students in the House.

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Students Rest and Have Lunch

After returning to Sioux Falls, McKervans, a young man from Haiti said, “I had fun, so I want to go next year again. It is important to know other things like the museum and capital in Pierre. I’m so glad because I was able to know the capital for my first time.”

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Students with Matt Konenkamp in the Governor’s Office

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LSS CNA Studnets with Governor Daugaard 2018

Students and Teachers pose with Gov. Daugaard

Thank you to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Adult Education and Literacy for sponsoring the event.

 

Heather and Laura with a few students

Everyone Enjoyed an Eventful Day


Remembering

January 16, 2018

“What movement tried to end racial discrimination?” The Civil Rights Movement
“What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?” Fought for civil rights

As a Citizenship Class instructor, I have the privilege of sharing about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. every session. Before discussing the 1960s, we cover the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation. The focus then jumps to World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II before moving to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. The history questions for the Naturalization Interview do not hide the long history of slavery in the United States. Students learn early in the session that slavery existed in the “thirteen original colonies.”

“What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?” People from Africa

To help students understand “racial discrimination” and what life was like in the United States for many African Americans following the Civil War and during the time of Dr. King, we often look at the infamous pictures of segregated water fountains and bathrooms. I tend to avoid the darker pictures of lynchings and angry mobs, not wanting to rouse any post-traumatic stress in our refugee and immigrant clients.

In reality, they “know” discrimination in a much deeper sense than me, their instructor. Many experienced racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination in their own countries. The Nepali-speaking refugees from Bhutan, the Kunama refugees from Eritrea, the Karen and Karenni refugees from Myanmar and many other minority groups that we serve at the Center for New Americans fled or were expelled from unbearable conditions.

 

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(Photo courtesy of AND JUSTICE FOR ALL)

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the lines above in 1963 from where he sat in a Birmingham jail following mass demonstrations of organized civil disobedience. Its truth rang loudly when it was first read, and continues to resonate reality today. I love my job and I love interacting with and learning more about my students, but their daily presence is also a stark reminder that gross injustices have occurred and continue to occur in many of their countries. I am grateful they now live in the United States without fearing for their lives. I am grateful for the rights guaranteed them and protecting them in the Bill of Rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but I wonder about their family and friends not here…those still in the refugee camps, those still in their native countries. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” My students remind me that we are all responsible for each other.

Written by Kadie Becker; Reposted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor


New Year’s Traditions

January 2, 2018

Every year I find that my students share similar New Year’s traditions, but there are also unique traditions for each country.

The Ethiopian New Year is September 11, known as Enkutatash in Amharic or “Gift of Jewels.”  Traditionally this holiday commemorates the return of the Queen of Sheba from a visit to King Solomon.  It also occurs at the end of the rainy season when Ethiopia is flourishing and flowers are plentiful.   In the morning, after a church service, young girls go from door to door singing and bringing flowers, young boys paint pictures of saints and play soccer games, and adults enjoy the day with beer and camaraderie.  Incidentally the Ethiopian calendar is 8 years behind ours, so it is 2010 this year!

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Ethiopian flowers in bloom for the New Year

When doing some research I found that there are actually 9 different New Year’s days in Nepal, the official one is based off the Nepal Sambat calendar (which is 56.7 years ahead of our calendar, so we will be ringing in 2075 this year!)  This holiday is celebrated between April 11 and 15, announcing in the spring season.  The day is celebrated with picnics, parades, soccer and volleyball games, religious rites, and gifts and cards.  People take time to consider both the past and the future and make resolutions for the coming year (sounds familiar!).

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Dancers celebrating one of the many New Years in Nepal

We of course cannot forget about the Chinese New Year.  Following the Chinese lunisolar calendar, the Chinese New Year starts the end of January or beginning of February and lasts 15 days.  Homes are thoroughly cleaned and decorated with red, old debts must be paid, gifts of money are exchanged, and it is common to light firecrackers.  Cleaning the home removes all bad luck, and allows the new luck to prosper.  This year Chinese New Year is February 16.

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Chinese New Year Festivities

A little closer to home, Guatemalans celebrate with music, dance, colorful costumes and fireworks.  People gather at the center of town to celebrate together.  There are two essential dances that hail from Hispanic colonists, el Baile de Moros y Cristianos and la Quema de Toritos y Alas.  The first dance represents the defeat of the Moors by the Christian Spaniards.  The second combines both dance and fireworks when a man dressed as a bull parades through the town and fireworks shoot from his “wings,” lighting up his path.

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The Dance of the Moors and the Christians

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The Burning of the Bulls and the Wings

 

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year, no matter how you celebrate!

Written by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor


The Great Thanksgiving Turkey

December 1, 2017

thanksgiving turkey

Our annual Thanksgiving celebration was a big hit this year.  Around 200 students, staff, teachers, and volunteers came together to share food and play Thanksgiving games.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, and it is especially important to our extended LSS family.  Students and teachers, together, worked hard for a memorable celebration.  Some students spoke and shared what they were thankful for, one class sang “Over the River,” and many students shared their gratitude and their feather on our Thanksgiving turkey.  Armed with 300 paper feathers, teachers and students discussed the importance of Thanksgiving and decorated the feathers with those things that the students were most grateful for.  Then students and teachers then added their feather to the turkey.

And what are our students thankful for?  What did the feathers say?  Answers varied from family, life, a safe home, America, a new chance, school, teachers to a better life, peace, freedom, and God.

LSS Classroom Volunteer Jenna said, “My favorite thanksgiving moment so far has been spending time with dozens and dozens of refugees and immigrants as we shared a (wonderfully international) Thanksgiving dinner. They all wrote something they were thankful for, and their words and spirit have been so humbling.”

After all the festivities, students, volunteers, and staff alike, were able to sit down and enjoy a wonderful internationally Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and of course pumpkin pie alongside singryla, tamales, sambusa, and chow mein!  Such a wonderful feast for a wonderful day!

Written by Heather Glidewell and Silke Hansen, LSS ESL Instructors

 


Halloween-like Traditions Around the World

October 30, 2017
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Pumpkins on display (Photo from Wikipedia)

It’s that time of year.  The air is crisp, leaves are falling and the days are getting longer.  Soon kids (and all the kids-at-heart) will dress up and the air will be filled with shouts of “trick-or-treat!”  Still others will stay indoors watching scary movies, pretending not to be scared of the dark.  Yep, it’s Halloween.  But do many of you know how Halloween began?  While there are many influences on the modern celebration of Halloween, most agree that the basis for the holiday is a blend of Celtic and Christian traditions.  The practice of jack-o-lanterns comes from the Celts, as they would carve turnips into lanterns to help guide departed spirits.  Trick-or-treating began as Christian children would go door to door collecting bread in exchange for prayers for loved ones.  After looking into the history of Halloween, I wondered if other cultures had similar celebrations, so I asked my co-workers to tell me about some of their homeland traditions.

Hailing from Croatia, Lilly Jasarovic told me that recently more Croatians are celebrating the modern Halloween with costumes and trick or treating.  But she also told me of the festival Maškare which is celebrated right before Lent.  During this festival, people dress up in costumes and celebrate with big masquerade parties, parades and bonfires.

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Bowl of Fritule, photo from wikipedia

Children are often given small doughnut-like pastries called fritule, as gifts by adults.

In Ethiopia, they celebrate the festival of Buhé (pronounced boo-hay).  Ahmed Abogn let me know that Buhe, sometimes refered to as Ethiopia’s Halloween, is celebrated in August near the end of the rainy season.  On the night of Buhe, young boys will go door to door singing and dancing, asking for small gifts, like bread or (nowadays) money.  Families will also light bonfires and gather around to celebrate.

Kaylan Dahal, a Bhutanese-Nepali caseworker, spoke about the traditions of Diwali.  The festival is a Hindu festival, also known as the Festival of Lights.  During this time families decorate their homes with flowers and it is a time to share food and blessings with each other.  During the festival, groups will go door to door singing songs or blessings and are rewarded with small gifts.  Kaylan tells me that in the refugee camp, you could visit nearly 100 homes because they were so close together.

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A Nepalese temple lit up for Diwali. (Photo by Dhilung Kirat)

Caseworker Law Reh spoke of the Karenni Deeku festival.  Named for the leaf-wrapped sticky rice that is cooked during this time, the festival is held with large group dances around sacred poles.  Sometimes people will wear masks during the celebrations.  They will also go door to door sharing gifts with one another.  Families will also make sculptures (Law described them similar to scarecrows) that will be placed in front of homes to protect from evil spirits.  This festival can take a week to celebrate and is a time to look forward into the next year as fortunes can also be told during this time.

Learning about all the different ways and reasons my coworkers celebrate was really great!  I got to hear about their homes and traditions as well as share some tidbits about Halloween too.  If this kind of history interested you, I hope you can take some time to learn more about the different traditions in the world because, as this blog showed me, despite the many differences, we are more similar than we sometimes think.

 

Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, LSS Center for New Americans


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