Welcoming Students from Afghanistan

Left: Students Mohammad Asim Sahibzada and Samandar Ehsan exulting in their welcome at Heights. Right: Atifa Habibi, a Heights refugee, in an interview for the Statesman. The students meet in the Library to hone their language skills. (Apraajita Sharma)

Commitment to the community has been a prioritized endeavor of Heights High School throughout its history of amiability, relevance, and prestige. Recently, an ethos of communal harmony blossomed with the welcoming of 24 Afghan students. Filled with unique sets of goals and aspirations, they each hope for a prolific and radiant future. With deferential temperament, these students are budding members of a progressive world, a progressive Heights.

As this country and countries around the world face waves of migration, Heights’ welcoming of these students shows the role that educational institutions play in establishing an intellectually plausible change in society. This program was not the fruit of a single night’s efforts or a night’s journey. Our initial wave of communal activity consisted of five boys from the different regions of Afghanistan, ranging from ages 15 to 19 years old. At the onset of this past February, 19 more Afghan students were enrolled at Heights. With due credit given to their industriousness, two students found themselves eligible for college attendance, a factor that only boosts the fact of these students’ proficiencies.

Students build reading skills from a variety of sources, wherein the depths of this astounding endeavor lie in the very vigor motivating students to read, write, and comprehend the English language. Most of the students speak Pashto and Dari. Learning a new language is toilingly gruel, but is lightened by the jubilant aura Heights’ educators present to all students alike. This should come as no surprise, though, as all relations of exulting and cultural celebrations are relations Heights has established well. These very relations are fuel to aspiring dreams. One student refugee, an aspiring medical professional, explains, “For my future, I want to finish school and to become a good doctor…hopefully I can come back to Afghanistan and help the people there.” The only other factor which can incrementally aid the students’ experience is your socialization and cooperation in building their second home not only in Heights, but in Houston as well.

Sagacious support is a priority readily offered to our new students, in particular from Campus Instructional Technology Specialist and ESL Beginner Teacher Ms. Kulsoom Karakoc and campus librarian Mr. Anthony White. In their close work with the new students, aided by proximate experience with language mastery, they are documenting the acuteness and ingenuity of students, while allowing other Heights students to learn not only about Muslim culture but also about the South Asian community. Ms. Karakoc sparked relevance to this priority, stating, “Learning a new culture, one so foreign from your own, is a gift. Forming connections with those different from you will expand your mind, give you empathy, and help you realize just how much you have to be thankful for.” With this incremental addition of students that is heretofore unfathomable at Heights, cultural diffusion has blossomed and will continue to progress.

This very support system has graciously led to progress with the onset of 8th-period tutorials offered to the students, situated in the library. These tutorials, led by Ms. Karakoc and Teacher Ms. Grant, ensure these students’ academic promontory, as well as holistic resilience and autonomy. With the added incentive of this venture counting as a plausible credit, the class fares with a reputable and enormously tremendous stance.

So far, Space City has fared opportunely for these international beacons, all during the advent of a new arrival and Ramadan fasting. “The society of America is good because if anyone has a problem here, the people help them and respect them. I like the society of America because the people are very respectful,” remarks Mukhtar Sahebzada, a refugee student at Heights. Similarly, another student named Atifa Habibi recounts, “In Afghanistan, we have books, but here, we have laptops… the life here is different and unique.” Surely this concurrent advance to a technologically and structurally conventional society has been quite the change for these students and us alike, as cultural solidarity strengthens itself once again. Consider this our lagniappe to students and the rest of the world, regardless of borders, conflicts, or community. Welcome to Heights High School!