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

Georgia colleges remember encounters with Aretha Franklin
Georgia colleges remember encounters with Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul left fond memories with several Georgia colleges and some of the people who worked there. Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday at the age of 76, performed at the Morehouse College King Chapel in 2009 at a birthday celebration for civil rights pioneer, the Rev. Joseph Lowery.  Henry Goodgame, Morehouse’s vice president of...
Organizers call end to teacher hunger strike
Organizers call end to teacher hunger strike

After reaching their goal of a commitment for four more years of fully funding public education in the state, a group of teachers has called an end to their hunger strike. “We achieved what we set out to do and everyone’s healthy and happy, so there’s really no need to continue the hunger strike,” said Alex Robson, organizer...
Federal commission increased money for school safety
Federal commission increased money for school safety

Much like the committees from Georgia’s state Senate and House, which are reviewing best practices to make schools safer, President Donald Trump convened a group of department heads on a federal level. The Federal Commission on School Safety, formed shortly after the shooting earlier this year at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglass...
Georgia State freshman’s class has record grade-point average
Georgia State freshman’s class has record grade-point average

Georgia State University’s freshman class had the best high school grades of any incoming class since the university began tracking such data. This semester’s first-year students had a 3.5 grade-point average, officials said in its annual report released Wednesday of the freshman class. Average SAT scores for incoming students have...
Clark Atlanta names new safety director but won’t discuss predecessor’s status
Clark Atlanta names new safety director but won’t discuss predecessor’s status

Clark Atlanta University has a new public safety director, but won’t discuss why it made the leadership change. The university’s president, Ronald A. Johnson, sent an announcement to students, faculty and staff that Debra Ann Williams is the interim director, effective Wednesday. A university spokesman did not respond to questions about...
More Stories