Inspiring me to have a positive attitude – World Refugee Day 2018

Ala and Christina with positive attitude

Tucson, Arizona – a student celebrates World Refugee Day 2018 by honoring a refugee student with a positive attitude who helps others

When I was growing up, my family would move every two years. I never had a definitive childhood home; I had more than eight. Most of the time I would stay in the same school district, but for high school I had to leave all the friendships I had developed over nine years and start fresh at a new school. At the time, I was heartbroken over the thought of a new start and terrified of what the future held.

It took me a while to find my footing. In the past few years, however, I have met dozens of people who have had the same experience, but under far worse circumstances. People who fled their homes in fear about their safety and the well-being of their families. People who must travel far and wide to find a semblance of safety, and even then are met with uncertainty regarding their futures. People who must at times leave their loved ones, all their belongings, and the place they once called home. People who are refugees.

I met Ala in 2017 at the tutoring center where I volunteer. She had moved to Tucson with her family from Kuwait a few months earlier, with a basic understanding of English and no friends. Over the past year, I have watched as, with her positive attitude, she gained confidence, made new friends, and excelled in school. In multiple subjects, I can explain a concept to her once, and she then has the confidence to do the rest of the work on her own as well as help other struggling students. She is an independent and avid learner who takes full advantage of the resources available to her.

Ala has made great contributions to our community—whether by helping other students with homework, engaging other students by initiating activities and games, or just bringing her positive attitude. In the coming years, I expect many more spectacular contributions from her with the confidence and leadership she has developed in the face of hardship.

In addition to the impact she has made on those in our community, she has also had a tremendous influence on me. I have gotten to know her as a person, to laugh with her, and to make a genuine connection with her. Every time I see her, she welcomes me with a warm smile and brightens my day. Our sense of humor is identical, and we can talk openly about our lives. She has given me a fresh perspective, one that I cherish and will keep with me through the (uncertain) years to come.

In the face of her own challenges, Ala has surpassed all expectations. I hope in my future to have the same positive attitude that Ala has demonstrated and make the most of the opportunities that unfold.

Now Ala is about to graduate from high school, and she is applying to multiple colleges. After completing college, she wants to attend medical school to become an OB-GYN. Although she is more of a science person and I have not touched a test tube since ninth grade, Ala and I share an interest in empowering women. She will do this by being an incredible doctor for women’s reproductive health, and I plan to do so by making education more attainable for girls. Hopefully, a few years down the road, we can work together again to help girls and women reach their full potential.

Ala inspires me daily, and I am so fortunate that our paths have crossed.

Refugees shaking hands

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World Refugee Day 2018

This month, to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, US-born Americans across the United States honor newcomer Americans with a story from their state – a story of a refugee, asylee, or immigrant they admire. From soldiers to politicians, employers to students, social workers to business people – everyday Americans tell their stories to celebrate the goodness and courage of the newcomers who make the United States a better place.

Every day in the month of June, the Refugee Center Online will publish a new story from a different state. Check back for new stories each day: therefugeecenter.org/world-refugee-day.

Learn more about World Refugee Day. All across the country, there will be events celebrating World Refugee Day. Visit this map to find an event in your community.

About Christina
Christina is graduating from college this year. She volunteers at an afterschool tutoring program in Tucson and plans to work in education.