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What refugee liaisons have learned from the students they serve

May 2, 2022, 5:00 AM | Updated: 7:31 am
Ghasaq Maiber and Danjuma Alcala. Picture provided by Danjuma Alcala.

SALT LAKE CITY — There are 800 refugee students now in the Granite School District. They are all ages, from kindergarten to 12th grade. There are 100 languages represented, and the challenges are as varied as the children themselves.

Ghasaq Maiber is a refugee liaison for the district. She and her children came here as refugees themselves from Iraq fifteen years ago, and now she helps other refugee children and their families.

“I love to see all refugee families be successful,” she told KSL NewsRadio. “Right now we have families from Afghanistan. We have a Syrian family, Iraqi, Congolese. From everywhere.”

Experiences vary for refugee students

“Some refugee students speak perfect English,” Maiber’s colleague and fellow Refugee Liaison Danjuma Alcala explained. “Some even attended private schools.”

Alcala told the story of one student who learned English watching YouTube videos in Turkey where his family had fled to escape war.

“And some kids,” Alcala continued, “come with no education whatsoever. They grew up in camps. Imagine being a high schooler, and it’s your first time in a classroom.”

One word for these students – resilient

As the school year draws to a close, both Maiber and Alcala give their cell phone numbers to the students and families they work with. They don’t just work with this community. They are a part of this community.

Alcala said, “One word for refugee students and families is resilient. Despite school coming to a close, they will look and find opportunities within their neighborhood and communities.”

He told an instructive story about a Syrian family who he asked, “‘What is your biggest benefit from coming here?’ And they said safety. Then I asked them, ‘What is your greatest need?’ And it was a friend. That’s all they want. They aren’t asking for things. What they want is your friendship.”

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What refugee liaisons have learned from the students they serve