A nonprofit visited Brookhaven’s Cross Keys High School Nov. 10 to record the stories of students who immigrated to the U.S. and highlight the diversity of the community.
The nonprofit, Green Card Voices, filmed students describing their experience moving to the U.S. and will later publish their stories in a book titled “Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from an Atlanta High School.” It is scheduled to be released in April 2018.
Tea Rozman Clark, the nonprofit’s executive director, said the goal of the project is to amplify the voice of immigrant students.
“We want to create a system where people are empowered to tell their true story,” she said. “Once you know someone’s story, it’s harder to hate them or fear them.”
Faysal Ando, a Cross Keys sophomore, who emigrated from Ethiopia 10 years ago, said he was nervous about speaking on camera and being photographed, but felt it was worth it. When people think of immigrants, they mostly think of immigrants from Mexico, but there are many people from other countries here, he said.
“It’s a good way to teach people about the diversity here,” he said. “It’s for a good cause and I’m excited.”
Clark interviewed Cross Keys students from more than 15 countries, including Bangladesh, Vietnam, Guatemala and Ethiopia.
The three previous books have featured students from St. Paul, Minneapolis and Fargo, Minnesota. The first two chapters of each book can be previewed online for free. The books cost $20 and the students featured in the books are compensated, Clark said. To view the already completed books, visit greencardvoices.com. The students’ video testimonies will also be posted on that site.
Project organizers were contacted by a social work professor at Kennesaw State University, Darlene Rodriguez-Schaefer, who felt that Cross Keys would be a “natural fit” to film the stories given how many immigrant students attend the school, she said.
The students are able to share their thoughts on common beliefs about immigrants to thousands of people, Rodriguez-Schaefer said.
For the first time since beginning the project, Clark let a student respond in Spanish during her interview. The 15-year-old student had emigrated from Mexico a few months prior, bringing along her 4-month-old baby. This student cannot be identified because she is still in the process of receiving legal permission to reside in U.S. Her appearance in the book is contingent on her receiving legal status.
Clark asked the last names of the other students not be used, but Ando provided permission to use his last name.
Ando said he was excited to come to the U.S. — “a better country with better education” — and made friends quickly when he arrived. “Soccer has remained a constant in my life and I made a lot of friends through it,” he said.
He said he plans to go to college and send money back to his family still in Ethiopia.
“It’s really hard there right now. There’s a lot of political turmoil,” Ando said. “I got lucky coming here so I really want to help them. It’s a lot of pressure,” he said.
Mario, who came to the U.S. from Mexico, said he is grateful he was able to come to the U.S. He said living in Mexico is dangerous and he probably would have dropped out of school if he still lived there.
“I would probably be part of a drug cartel. With the current situation, it is dangerous to be there,” he said. Aleman said he hopes to major in computer science and design video games.
Saifa, who moved from Bangladesh 10 years ago, said when she found out her family was coming to the U.S., she was scared and didn’t want to move.
“I wasn’t able to say goodbye to my family and friends,” she said. “We were crying almost all the time. We missed everything. Everything was so unfamiliar.”
Since then, she has made friends through clubs and started a dance club.
If her family stayed in Bangladesh, Saifa said she thinks she would likely be dead.
“It’s dangerous to go outside, especially for ladies and girls. There is killing every day,” she said.