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

Errors in financial, housing red tape can snarl first day on campus
Errors in financial, housing red tape can snarl first day on campus

The fall semester often begins with familiar complaints from some students and parents on many college campuses. The school didn’t properly process the student’s financial paperwork. The college erred and the student has nowhere to live on campus. This year was no different for some metro Atlanta campuses. More than 150 Clark Atlanta University...
DeKalb Schools: Recent departures highlight administrative turnover
DeKalb Schools: Recent departures highlight administrative turnover

The DeKalb County School District has confirmed in the last two weeks two departures from the superintendent’s staff cabinet, high-ranking officials in charge of key departments. Chief of Staff Ramona Tyson will be stepping into a new role with the school board, according to an announcement during the Sept. 10 DeKalb County Board of Education...
School systems find inexpensive safety alternatives
School systems find inexpensive safety alternatives

Not all aspects of school safety have to be expensive. That’s the message some local schools are sending out as districts across the state and country focus on that topic. Although technology such as cameras and key-card entry systems, and highly trained personnel such as police officers and counselors require a considerable amount of funding...
Schools try to thwart a troubling trend: childhood suicide
Schools try to thwart a troubling trend: childhood suicide

Doris Adhuze saw no signs on April 21, 2017, that her son planned to take his life. Jovany, she said, was a black teen from a two-parent household known for high-fiving friends and teachers, and quietly buying lunch for students who needed one. Still, she found him hanging from a coat hook on his closet door about 10 minutes after the 13-year-old arrived...
Atlanta school board considers goals for 2018-19 year
Atlanta school board considers goals for 2018-19 year

This year will be all about planning for the Atlanta Board of Education. The school board is finalizing its goals for the 2018-2019 year, even though school began Aug. 1. The proposed goals, which the board approved tentatively earlier this  month but  must still approve via a final vote, are:  To develop a user-friendly community...
More Stories