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Students Speak to GR Mayor

Four Excel Charter Academy students gave speeches to the mayor of Grand Rapids, Roslyn Bliss, and other city officials as part of KidsSpeak 2018 where they shared their struggles with being immigrants in the city.

Speakers included: Alor Mou, fourth grade, from South Sudan; Abdalla Abdalla, fourth grade, Nasir Abdalla, third grade, and Zubeda Abdalla, second grade, all from Somalia.

KidsSpeak is an annual event organized by the Mayor’s Youth Council and held at city hall every spring. The council selects a different theme each year to speak about. This year’s theme was titled “Tearing Down the Walls.”

The four students read papers they wrote about their experiences and struggles as Muslims and refugees in Grand Rapids.

“I was really scared to go to school,” said Zubeda Abdalla during her speech. “Some people made fun of me for wearing a hijab. Some students wouldn’t play with me because I was Muslim. I want to say that I want everyone to be friends.”

Zubeda shared that she did find a group of friends at Excel Charter Academy and was embraced by the staff.

The students attend the Refugee Education Center (REC) after school everyday to help improve their English and receive help with homework. Staff at the REC center helped the students write their speeches for the event.

“I'm super proud of these kiddos as English is not their first language and to get up in front of all those people and read their stories was very courageous,” said Heidi Morrison, EL teacher and coordinator at Excel Charter Academy.

The event was live streamed on Facebook:

Great job, Excel students!