Dozens Of Burmese Refugees Have Made Tulsa Their Home
By Ashli Sims, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Two years ago their country was decimated by a storm; they're refugees who have made The United State, and Oklahoma, their home. The special group of students face more challenges than most.
Watching them write on the board, you might not guess many of the students haven't been to school in years.
"I come here because I want to go to school. In Malaysia, you cannot go to school," said Lal Lian, an Interrupted Formal Schooling student.
Just two years ago, 17-year-old Lal Lian was living in a refugee camp in Malaysia. He and many of his classmates are originally from Myanmar or Burma. The Southeast Asian country made headlines two years ago when it was devastated by a massive typhoon.
But even before the storm, war and poverty drove refugees into neighboring nations. In the last couple of years, dozens of Burmese refugees have made Tulsa their home.
When Ning Mang's family immigrated nine years ago, she had never spoken a word of English.
"I feel like I am mute," said Ning Mang, an IFS interpreter. "The teacher helped me a lot at school. You have to speak it out. The teacher always encouraged me, "don't be afraid to speak it out. You have to speak it out.'"
Mang graduated from Jenks High School, went on to college and is now back to help other Burmese refugees find their voice.
"I feel very blessed that I am part of this program, because I always pray that I will be useful to my people," said Mang.
Mang and five other teachers are helping the Burmese students adjust to their new lives through a program called Interrupted Formal Schooling.
"They're eager, they want to learn, they want to be wonderful members of our society. And I think we need to give them a foundation," said Courtney Connelly, an IFS teacher.
Jenks' IFS has 30 students at a time, but it doesn't end there. Many of them take regular classes and go on to graduate.
"They are just excelling in unbelievable ways and I think part of that is giving them that time for transition," said Connelly.
It's not easy, but the students say they're determined to take advantage of all that their new country has to offer.
"I like Jenks because we have a lot of chance and helping teachers," said Lian.
This is the first year Jenks' Interrupted Formal Schooling program has offered a full slate of core classes, including math, reading, science and social studies.