Immigration stories from Atlanta slated for new book

The teen’s story was too compelling to be left on the cutting room floor.

She’d come to the United States from Guatemala earlier this year as a 15-year-old, her 4-month-old child in tow. She traveled to the U.S. border for months, mostly on foot, leaving behind a village with no electricity and little running water.

When it came time for the interview, she couldn’t get through it in English.

“We’ve never done this before,” said Tea Rozman Clark, offering to interview the teen and use subtitles to translate her story in the video being filmed.

Clark was winding down the last of four days of interviewing immigrant students at Cross Keys High School. The result will be “Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from an Atlanta High School,” a book she hopes will educate people across Georgia about the immigration process for some people in their own neighborhoods.

“Historically, every time there’s a ‘last wave’ of immigrants, they have a hard time of being accepted,” said Clark, executive director for Green Card Voices, a nonprofit out of Minneapolis that seeks to humanize recent immigrants through digital storytelling.

The situation is a personal one for Clark, who came to the United States from Yugoslavia as a 20-year-old and found it hard to connect with people in a community where diversity was little and she spoke no English.

“This is all about creating bridges where we can get to know one another,” she said.

The book will be the fourth in a series so far from schools in different regions. The purpose of regional books is to give readers reference points — schools, restaurants, a park — that are familiar to them to better connect with the experiences. Clark’s team interviewed several dozen students from more than 15 countries in an old chorus room at Cross Keys High School, in Atlanta near the Buford Highway corridor, where many immigrants live, work and socialize.

Cross Keys is one of the more diverse schools in metro Atlanta, with nearly 90 percent of its students either immigrants or refugees, with parents who speak English as a secondary language, if at all. Students interviewed also came from the International Student Center, a transition school of sorts for some new to the country who need time overcoming communication barriers.

The book, scheduled to be published in April, is funded through a partnership between the nonprofit, the Latin American Association and the Kennesaw State University Division of Global Affairs Strategic Internationalization Grant.

Darlene Xiomara Rodriguez, an assistant professor of social work and human services in nonprofit management at KSU, said the project was a fitting extension of the work she’s doing with the grant.

“We are the hotbed of anti-immigration sentiment,” Rodriguez said, referring to metro Atlanta. “There’s so much here that needs to be said. The book gives a voice to students who don’t always have the opportunity to share their stories unedited.

“It’s always through the filtered lens of someone else.”

On a wall in the interview room is a quote from the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, in English and Spanish. “Everything seems impossible until it’s done.”

Faysal Ando, 16, who came to the United States from Ethiopia nearly 10 years ago, said he wanted to tell his story to give hope to someone else going through what he had already experienced.

“At first, I was skeptical,” the 11th-grader said.

Education didn’t guarantee a good job even when he was a young boy, he said, remembering adults with law degrees working blue-collar jobs.

Here in the United States, he said, it’s different.

“College is a must,” he said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Education

Grade inflation on the rise: Everybody gets an A. 
Grade inflation on the rise: Everybody gets an A. 

In 2015, Montgomery County, Md., decided to stop giving final exams in its high schools. Parents in the high-achieving district were frustrated with testing, maintaining it narrowed curriculum and inhibited creativity. But the elimination of final exams produced a result that is now troubling some parents and teachers -- soaring grades. As the Washington...
Senate school safety committee recommends changes to ESPLOST
Senate school safety committee recommends changes to ESPLOST

The state senate’s school-safety panel recommends adding hundreds of mental health professionals, and expanding school districts’ taxing power to pay for them. In its final meeting Tuesday, the Georgia Senate School Safety Study Committee unanimously voted on a plan to present to the State Legislature in January. The proposal&rsquo...
Lawmakers consider changing school calendars
Lawmakers consider changing school calendars

Georgia lawmakers considering more uniformity in the setting of school calendars heard Wednesday from state education officials, child advocates, a school boards lobbyist and a family farmer who caters to tourists.  The committee comprises a mix of elected officials and appointees, including representatives of the tourism industry. The goal: decide...
Georgia Southern gets record $5 million donation
Georgia Southern gets record $5 million donation

Georgia Southern University has received its largest donation ever, $5 million from a local business leader that will be used for its business college. The state’s Board of Regents on Tuesday approved the name of the Gregory M. Parker College of Business at Georgia Southern University after the donor, the founder and CEO of Savannah-based...
Effort to get more Atlanta graduates to college succeeding
Effort to get more Atlanta graduates to college succeeding

Before he graduated from Mays High School this year, when he was still figuring out where to go to college and how to pay for it, Governor Brown started getting texts from his advisers. The messages came regularly, with information about SAT and ACT tests and reminders about college tours. His mom got texts too. He got to know the college advisers...
More Stories