Refugee Youth Programs Nurture Strengths

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Organizations strategize to help kids 'dream again'
“We could do a flea market,” suggests Faisal Gedi, a tall high school senior of Somali descent. Three teenagers and an adult advisor cluster around a table in the community center in Clarkston, Ga., a small town on the edge of Atlanta. They’re brainstorming.

“What about a walk-a-thon?” asks Kim An Ta, a 12th-grader whose parents came from Vietnam.

It’s a meeting of the Clarkston Youth Initiative, one of a number of youth program in this small city, whose population is more than half made up of refugees.

Clarkston has been called the “Ellis Island of the South,” as more than 2,500 people from around the world are resettled here each year through refugee agencies.

Refugee kids face the same issues as U.S.-born kids, but with an enormous twist: the task of assimilating into a new culture after the disruption of fleeing from their home country. Some have lost family members or have been separated from them. They may be dealing with trauma and survivor guilt. Some have had interrupted schooling. Many must learn English, and they all must make their way through an unfamiliar education system.

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