Tenth grader Abdulkadir Hussein strides into the middle and high school building to start his day and is greeted with a smile and a “good morning” from each teacher. A few steps into the hall, he starts to walk under the many different flags of countries that line way above him. As the flags hang proudly from the ceiling, some are reflected down Hussein’s left arm in seven of his many colorful, beaded bracelets, each showcasing a different country’s flag.
With the representation of many countries in his daily wear, Hussein still understands his opportunity for education lies in the country of one bracelet specifically: the United States. Among the other 600-plus students from about 50 different countries in the Nahed Chapman New American Academy located on South Grand, Hussein has a past unique to most in the St. Louis metro area, but common among his classmates.
With a Swahili mother, Somali father, three brothers and two sisters, Hussein is not alone in his transition to living in the United States after leaving Mombasa, Kenya. Their “normal” life on the other side of the Atlantic was stricken with violence. As the fighting arose, Hussein’s family confronted new obstacles from thievery to death. Hussein began to face these horrors first-hand. He was robbed and stabbed, leaving scars that show the injuries he obtained from the violence there.
“Our homes, the thieves would come through the window and take everything, and if you said ‘Don’t take anything,’ they could kill,” Hussein said. “That is why we had trouble. It is horrible and terrible.”
In the Nahed Chapman New American Academy, all teachers and staff understand that the school is full of students from different backgrounds. Backgrounds that can include many students receiving little to no education due to their country being in turmoil or due to the conditions of refugee camps. Either way, because of these circumstances, the teachers all realize they must respect their students’ past experiences. While regarding all their students’ previous struggles, the teachers guide the students to learn what is acceptable in American society and schools.
With the student population speaking more than 25 different languages, the academy is surrounded with the richness of culture. For example, Hussein himself can speak six languages, including Somali, Swahili, Spanish and English. With such a variety of language and cultured atmosphere, students and teachers alike are able to face the exciting and challenging task ahead: preparing for American public school within two years.