FHN and the Nahed Chapman New American Academy: Bringing a World Apart Closer Together

Posted on 12/17/2018
NCNAA students visit FHN

Two years ago, FHN senior Sarah Zimmerman and five other journalism students visited the Nahed Chapman New American Academy to write a story about the school. They didn’t know it at the time, but that day would spark a relationship between the schools that will last for years. In December, more than 50 NCNAA students visited FHN to spend another day creating memorable friendships.  

“When we left we were overwhelmed, we were awestruck by everything we saw and the people there,” said Zimmerman. “We wanted to do more because the students had so little funding and they were so optimistic and excited to be learning. So it started small with a school supply drive, and once we got a taste of that we just wanted to keep helping and connecting with the students.”     

Part of the St. Louis Public Schools, NCNAA provides immigrant students with accelerated English training and an introduction to American culture before they transition to a regular classroom environment. Keary Ritchie has taught at the school for five years and sees more similarities than differences between the students. “This is amazing, not only will they get to see a different part of the area that they don’t normally see, but I think that they will also see that they are all high schoolers and the same in so many ways. It’s a cross-cultural experience that has a lot of value, but it’s deeper than that. They don’t have many American friends, but they learn that what we’re doing is what they’re doing.”

“I like the Academy, I have many friends there,” said Mugisa Masabu, a 14-year-old freshman from Uganda. But an even bigger smile appears when he talks about his experience visiting North. “This school is nice and big, I like it because there are no rude students, all of them are nice. They all want to know where I’m from and how long I’ve been in America. People are all the same, yes they are.”

“We wanted to make these students know that they are very welcome, we have signs up around the building that say ‘Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here’ and we have them all around North,” said FHN teacher (and Missouri Teacher of the Year) Shelly Parks. “The North students will hear stories that they have never experienced before, about kids who have fled their country, have left everything behind that they knew and loved, and are here pretty much on their own.”

NCNAA students visit FHNThe inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads (in part), “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” When you engrave those words on one of the world’s most visible landmarks, be prepared for people to take you up on the offer. Sarah Zimmerman still believes those are words to live by. “This program I think is essential, especially in the political atmosphere we have right now. A lot of refugees are feeling pushed away, even though they’re trying to make the United States their new home. I think it’s important for schools and the community to have this kind of connection with international students to make them feel welcome and embrace other cultures and diversity. After all, America was founded by immigrants who hoped for a better future.”

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2021 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.