Christina Purice, 15, arrived in Seattle from the Republic of Moldova in Eastern Europe with her family at the end of October 2011 and was initially sent to the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center (SBOC). She speaks Russian and Romanian and is now learning English.
“It was hard, that first day of school,” she said. “I didn’t know one person, and I felt so alone.”
One teacher, Svetlana Mamedova, speaks Russian and helped Christina adjust.
Two and a half months later, at the end of first semester, she went to Eckstein Middle School because her English was considered sufficient for a mainstream school. However, after just four days at the Northe En middle school, she opted to return to the SBOC (by now renamed the Seattle World School).
“I liked the fact that all the students at the SBOC were foreign like me,” she said. “At Eckstein, other kids thought I was different. But, at the SBOC, everyone is different so I didn’t feel so alone.”
Her best friends now include girls from Brazil, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and China. She’s learned to say hello in a dozen languages and hopes to study Japanese one day.
In her literacy class, students were asked to read a book about a refugee student new to this country and to write an essay comparing his life to theirs. This is Christina’s work.
Have you ever had to start a new life in a different country? In “Home of the Brave,” Katherine Applegate tells the story of a boy from Sudan named Kek. Kek moves from a refugee camp in a desert to Minnesota to live with his aunt, while his mother is missing.
Kek’s life and my life are similar because we both are going to a new school, both are learning English and both are optimistic about the future.
For Kek, it was exciting to have a chance to go to school, even if it was very confusing. For example, he says, “I’m used to not understanding. It is like playing a game with no rules.” Even if he doesn’t understand a lot, he still likes to go to school to learn new things.
In contrast, for me, going to a new school for the first time was kind of scary. But, soon, I started to like it very much. I made new friends, and then I was as excited as Kek to go to school. In summary, both Kek and I learned to appreciate being in a new school.
Both Kek and I are learning English as a second language. For Kek, English is puzzling, and he doesn’t understand a lot of things. He feels confused listening to English.
“I nod to say yes, I understand, but I wonder if I will ever understand,” he thinks. Likewise for me, learning English was difficult, but not as hard as it was for Kek. I knew some words, and also I could read and write. But when people were talking to me, I couldn’t understand at all. Therefore, we both know that, even if learning English is hard, it is not impossible.
Also, Kek and I are both optimistic about our futures. Kek is very positive and hopeful. When everybody thinks his mother will not be found, he still hopes that she will come soon to live with him. His aunt says about him, “Kek finds sun when the sky is dark.”
Similarly, I like to see that good things will happen. When I came to the USA, I knew everything would be good very soon, even if my mother was thinking pessimistically. In summary, Kek and I are feeling optimistic about the future because we know that we can be ready for it.
I liked this book very much because his life is similar to my own. Although Kek and I are from different countries, we both learned some very important lessons. The book has a very powerful message about not
losing hope and the value of helping each other.
For more than 30 years the SBOC served immigrant and refugee students coming to Seattle from around the world. In late November, it was renamed the Seattle World School and now offers students the option of staying on as it becomes a full-fledged high school or transitioning to a mainstream secondary school.
It is centrally located on Capitol Hill to serve students who come from Lake City, as well as West Seattle and Rainier Valley.
DIANE STEEN is a volunteer at the Seattle World School (formerly the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center). For more information, visit the Friends of SBOC’s website: www.friendsofsboc.org.