Her tear-filled eyes wide, Abe’s mother pulled her teacher aside after adult English class one day in late August. Her teenage son, a high school senior, was failing chemistry at school and hiding in his room at home. Could the English instructor find a tutor for him? The instructor jumped into action, reaching out to several potential tutors before she found a very bright university student with a keen grasp of chemistry. They began meeting regularly, and Abe’s grades soon rose.
He walked into the large room with no expression on his face. After a full day of kindergarten in a new classroom, in a new school, in a new country, he had nothing left to give. If anything, there was a bit of fear in his eyes. Three other children—two first graders and a second grader—entered with him.
An American lady approached him. Was she another teacher? She told him something in English, but he didn’t understand even the first word.
Afternoons in southern Iraq are hot. Working in his university’s research gardens, Safaa Alshuwaili was sweating when he noticed an interesting ant and followed it back to its hive. That ant belonged to the first of five ant species he found, classified, and named while studying there. In 2010, Safaa graduated with his master’s degree in environmental science.
He took a position at another university, where he taught insect taxonomy and classification for seven years. Then he received a scholarship to continue his studies in the United States. Safaa left his parents and five siblings in Iraq, landing in Cincinnati, Ohio, at Christmas time in 2013. He spoke almost no English.
Esther’s kids walked six blocks to and from school every day. It was less than a mile each way. As a child back in Africa, Esther and her siblings had walked much further without giving it a second thought. There were homes along the way, so Esther never imagined her kids were unsafe.
Remember the excitement of the first day of school? Remember how proudly you shouldered your new backpack and marched into school?
International children now have the same feeling after they visit the Knox County Schools Welcome Center, where new families enroll their children in school throughout the year. Every child receives a well-stocked backpack, readying them for that first day in their new schools.
Read the stories of Knoxville's local internationals and the volunteers who have impacted their lives. Get a first-hand view of what it's like to move here and/or to serve those who've moved here from other countries. Discover how KIN has impacted life and culture in metro Knoxville.