10 tips for success in school for newcomer students

Abel and Felix in their Success in School video

Two of USAHello’s summer interns created a video to help refugee and immigrant students achieve success in school.

Abel Getachew and Felix Songolo decided to create this video “10 Tips for Success in School” because they wanted to help other newcomer youth overcome the challenges they themselves faced when they started school in the United States.

Abel arrived in the United States five years ago, and remembers starting school and not speaking a word of English. He was lost at school and remembers feeling shy and not wanting to ask for help. Abel was always hungry at lunch, afraid to eat American food, but with no other options. Abel said it was only after he joined a soccer team and made friends that he began to feel comfortable. He learned to ask for help, to stay late and put in extra time with his teachers. Abel said, “I want other students to know it’s ok to make mistakes, to not feel embarrassed to make mistakes.”

Felix came at a younger age and says his transition to school in the United States was a bit easier. However, he still clearly remembers the feeling of wanting to hide his identity, of being ashamed of being from Africa. Felix wants to help other refugee and immigrant students “take pride in their backgrounds and stories.”

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Both Felix and Abel speak of how much their parents have shaped their desire for success in school.

“Even though my mom doesn’t always understand my homework or the school system, she always encourages me,” said Abel. “Every day she checks to make sure I’ve done my homework and constantly reminds me that I can succeed in school.”

Felix said, “One of the most important milestones for me was understanding just how much my parents went through to ensure I could get an education. Realizing what it took for them to flee their country, to start over, really has motivated me to do my best.”

Today, Abel and Felix are both leaders in their community and school. Both engage in extra-curricular activities and spend a lot of time volunteering and giving back. Abel has arranged two different school supply drives, collecting donated items for over 200 students. He also volunteers at a local hospital and hopes one day to become a surgeon. Felix recently attending a sociology camp and Stanford University and this fall will be doing motivational speaking with refugee youth in elementary and middle schools.

Both have received scholarships to attend a small, private high school and play for their soccer team.

“We want other students to be proud to say they are refugees. It is really a badge of strength,” said Felix.

“We know they can succeed,” they both conclude.

Opinions expressed and advice given in USAHello’s Voices and Hello blogs are the writers’ own. USAHello offers impartial information and online courses to help newcomers in the USA.