By Lita Ugarte Pardi, director, resource deployment
Storytelling is an ancient and valuable art, one which some claim is the most powerful communication tool humans have. Stories are a part of every culture and present us with a window to peek into our past and a guide our future.
Earlier this year, I learned of a newly-published book in which 21 Atlanta-area high school refugee and immigrant students share their personal stories. I was drawn to the book as the authors come from 13 countries, and through their stories, they reflect on their journeys to the United States. “Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from an Atlanta High School” is the fourth collection of personal essays written by refugee and immigrant students and the first one to focus on students in the South. The stories bring to light how complex and challenging the journey to our country can be and illustrate young people’s courage and joy in simple things.
Despite not knowing what was in store for them, the students were certain that coming to the U.S. would only benefit them and their families, giving them opportunities not available to them in their home countries. They knew they’d be able to get a quality education, that their parents would be able to find employment to support their families and that their families would have permanent homes. Upon arriving in the U.S., most of the young people had to learn English and some began attending school for the first time in many years. Although making new friends might not have been easy at first because of the language barrier, reading about the different ways our community showed kindness to the young people and their families was heartwarming.
I made my journey to the U.S. when I was 13. I was born and raised in Peru and moved here from Brazil. Though I was fluent in English, nothing could have prepared me for all the new things I would have to learn because of that move.
In this day and age when the topic of refugees and immigrants is much debated, it is especially important for us to be aware of what refugees and immigrants have gone through, to know their stories. After all, having a sense of where your neighbors have been and what they’ve experienced is part of what makes a community strong.