Meet Sai Lakshmi Balaji

Behind every great story, there is an inspiration that kicks it all off. The focus on these posts, personally, has been on education or lack thereof for new Americans. The story was inspired by Sai, a woman that works at Sam’s Club and was mentioned very early on in the first story. When I initially spoke with her, I had no idea how big of a piece she would have within the grand scheme of things. However, during our first meeting, she pointed out that a major problem with immigrants coming over to the U.S. was the lack of education they were getting in their home country or the fact that they were not getting proper education here, which led to dropping out of school. While some people can thrive and become successful without education, most need it and it is a very important aspect in ones life because it can lead to better opportunities and help build a stable future.  Continue reading

Baseball invites Immigrants to Dominate

By Karlee Dies

Comedian Trevor Noah talks Sports in America

The crowd is cheering. The aroma of hot dogs, popcorn and excitement fill the area. The teams are playing their heart out. Memories are being made. Some of the greatest memories come from sports. American sports are known for great fans, great games, and great athletes.

Continue reading

Places with language barrier

by Taylor Buffington

Based on what I have picked up there are some places in the Erie area where New Americans may struggle with English. East High School in Erie is a place where learning English is probably a big deal. Learning a new language is probably harder on kids than it is on adults. East High School has so many students that probably need some help.

east

http://www.eriesd.org/east

East High School is a high school located in Erie, Pennsylvania and it has many students who are learning English. I did an internship with a program that took place at East High and in the main entrance of the building there are maps from many countries around the world. During the time of my internship I was curious as to why those maps were there. The map were of far off countries like Iraq and Ethiopia. Upon taking advanced electronic journalism I would learn why the maps were there.

I learned that East High is well known for having cultural diversity. East High has approximately 900 students and of those 900 students 300 of them are English language learners. School can be a very hard place to fit in even for students who already speak English. It is quite hard to imagine how much harder it is for the students who can’t speak English. It is great that students have opportunities to learn English and that there are some people out there that are willing to lend a hand to students who need help learning English.

How to learn English

by Taylor Buffington

In the Erie School districts there are some programs that help the students learn English due to English not being their native language. It is rather difficult to learn English it is maybe the hardest language in the world to learn. Lots of times children are not exactly here in the United States by choice. There are many cases in which children have no choice, but to come here to the United States and they can’t speak English well at all. Some school district do offer programs where that can be helpful.

The Erie public school system has a comprehensive educational program for English language learner (ELL). The main goal of the ELL program is to give students the necessary skills to function successfully in an English speaking environment. In the ELL students are provided with instructions in order to help develop the best skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. They are also required to learn science, social studies, mathematics, and language arts.

Seeing students who struggle is quite possibly one of the hardest things there is to watch. In the United States there are many different things that students will struggle with. There are some students who just have a very hard time learning things, but there are also others who just aren’t able to speak English at all. That seems that would be the ultimate challenge as a student when you don’t even know what it is you are learning.

There are many reasons why students don’t learn English. Some of the reasons are it is too difficult, it is expensive, it takes too long and those are just a couple of the reasons. Many of the New Americans that come to the United States are not here by choice and they don’t exactly have a lot of money. It seems many things that are needed in this world are quite expensive. It being difficult seems to be pretty common because nobody wants to do anything that is difficult. The fact that it also takes a lot of time is a good reason. Learning a new language is something that takes a very long time and is not something that can just be done instantly. New Americans don’t exactly have a lot of time on their hands so learning a new language is a great challenge. There are also some New Americans that just don’t see a need in learning a new language.

With some organizations out there to help learn a new language they are some things New Americans definitely need to take advantage of. These programs are something that is needed in order for the New Americans to assimilate and feel more welcome here in the United States.

Diamond in Little Italy

Photos by Drew Patrick

 

There is no place that bring together cultures, races, genders, and ages quite like a good old-fashion Barbershop. Erie’s Little Italy, has one of the best. Sitting in the heart of Little Italy lies Ruiz Barber Shop.

Little Italy known today only by name, started falling out of favor as factories moved out and the initial Italian immigrants moved with them. Little Italy is working on improving  the area, with the help of grants given to the Sisters of Saint Joseph’s Neighborhood Network. Today the area has become a Multicultural Community.  In an area that deals with its fair share of blight,owner Cesar Ruiz and the Barber Shop has become a beacon of light.

Ruiz barbershop on W 18th street sees patrons of all ages and backgrounds. Conversations about Sports, Politics, family, you name it. With a talented and knowledgeable staff  it truly is a place that you can embrace your own unique style.

 

Check out the complete Ruiz Barber Shop Transformation:

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For more information on Ruiz Barbershop check out their Facebook Page. 

 

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Life in a refugee camp

Prakash Limbu’s story of growing up in a refugee camp, and his journey of moving  to and living in Erie, PA.

By Anna Ashcraft

Prakash Limbu is a typical 19 year old college student at Gannon University. He works, goes to college and plays soccer. Yet, a lot of people may not know he came to this country as a refugee, when he was in eighth grade.
In 1989, Nepalese and Bhutanese people began to have conflicts over religious and cultural freedom. Fear of persecution and freedom of religion led thousands of people to flee Bhutan.
Limbu’s family arrived in a Bhutanese camp in Nepal in 1990. There were around 120,000 Bhutanese and Nepalese people in camp. Limbu was born in the camp in 1997.
A camp is not an ideal place to grow up. They did have schooling for the children, such as English, accounting, trigonometry, science, chemistry and physics. There also were organizations in camp such as UNCF (United Negro College Fund) and HHO (Holding Hands Organization), the Red Cross, and others helping with education, food, schooling, and medical.  However the inequality of care and distribution was rampant. Prakash had a large family of seven children.
“Even though they provided everything, it wasn’t enough. Some families had 7 kids or 5 kids, a big family, so it’s hard to adapt in that kind of situation and survive. We didn’t get much money. We couldn’t afford to go to college or university back in Nepal because it was tough for us. It provided us up to high school,”  Limbu said.
There were also many problems such as religious disputes and trafficking. There were instances of things like sex trafficking, exploitation and even organ harvesting. There was a clash between Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity, which created religious disputes as well.
Then a rebel group sprang up in 2007. A Bhutanese leader rose up as a leader of the rebel group. The rebels had heard about the IOM (International Organization For Migration). They are an organization that resettles immigrants and refugees. People can go to the U.S. or other countries like UK, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the Netherlands. The rebels didn’t take well to being resettled and wanted to go back to their country.
In 2006 and 2007 there were protests. The people hated the leaders and rose up against them. In one of those protests, three people got shot. After that people began to chose resettlement and slowly, people began to move. In 2008, 2009 and 2010 everybody started leaving.
Limbu’s father worked in a coal factory in India during their lives in the camp. He would travel from Nepal to India. He did hard labor; going inside holes and cutting coals to sell. He would work, then come home to provide money and essentials to Prakash’s mother and the family. He had a family of five sisters and two brothers, many children to provide for.
“We never got to exchange our clothes; it was hard to ask for money, like one piece or two pieces just to eat new things. We had no cell phones, no computers. We had never heard about this kind of technology that we have here. It was very doomed, sad, and congested at the time.”
Limbu’s father did not want the family to resettle in the U.S. He did not think it would be an easy place to adapt to. He then said “We don’t know about America. It’s not what we see on television. People are different there. Who knows what happens tomorrow. We should stay in Nepal. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. I will do everything to give you the best life.”
Eventually he agreed it would be best for the family to go to America. The family filled out a form in 2008. The process for resettlement began in 2010 and the family was ready to go soon after.
His father passed away suddenly by heart attack in 2010, before the family left for the U.S.
Prakash moved to Erie, PA on January 26, 2011. He began eighth grade, after having already completed ninth grade in Nepal. “The language was different, the culture was different, fundamental beliefs were different, people were different.
“ I don’t know what to say. I have to feel fear about myself, fear about if I can offend others by my gestures or my language, or my body style, or my verbal. It was very hard for me to learn all those things when I was 13 or 14. My English was not great, the American accent was very new to me and it was very hard to comprehend at the time.”
Then he learned about bullying.
“I started learning about bullying. I’d never heard about bullies. I got bullied, I didn’t even know about it. I got into fights. I got beaten by, I think, six kids. I fought back and almost got suspended. I was new, and I had never experienced this kind of thing. I thought America was very friendly. That people were really nice and welcoming.”
His mother encouraged him not to give up. She said “you have a very long way to go. You have to make your own future, your own life. There is no one to help you out. Trust in God, and do your hard work.”
He began playing soccer. He played games against Cleveland, and Fairview. They won a lot of games and he scored many goals. He started to get recognition from his peers. He also got recognition for being top of his class in english and science.
He soon graduated from middle school and went to high school. Then he got a job in sales and began taking college classes at Gannon. He would commute from school, to work, then to Gannon. “I did up to grade nine in Nepal, so it was easy for me. There were so many Nepalese and Bhutanese kids at the high school, so it was easy for me to exist there. I had friends to talk to, it was a small school. The teachers were very nice and open about it, they knew about cultural differences and it was very nice for us to be in that school.”During high school he took 15 college credits at Gannon.
Limbu graduated from high school in 2015. He gave a speech at his graduation to all his fellow graduates, Bhutanese refugees and all.
“It should not drag you out of success or all the goodness that this country offers. You just have to work hard and stay motivated, stay positive. Stay away from dysfunctional negativity that surrounds you. One day you’ll be accepted by this country as a successful immigrant or a successful person.”
Limbu attends Gannon University and is currently ending his freshman year. He is majoring in Physical Therapy.
“My freshman year is almost over and it was a very good experience. It was not easy being a refugee. Being an immigrant from another country, to learn and adapt in this situation. To learn the language, and all the cultural diversity that this country has. It was very tough. You can imagine being an American and going to China and learning all the languages and learning about the culture and their history, its really tough. I found it hard for me, but I just wont give up,” Limbu talked about.
Limbu and his family are all American citizens now. One has to live in America for 5 years in order to become a citizen. It is around $750 per person to apply for a citizenship. Once you have a green card, you have to live in America for 4 and a half years longer in order to apply. You also have to take a test in order to gain citizenship.
“All the successful people this country have today are mostly immigrants. Even Albert Einstein is an immigrant from Germany. He is one of the greatest scientists that we have ever had. There are so many great people, even Barrack Obama is not even American, his father was an immigrant and he lived most of his childhood in Indonesia. There are so many great people that are not from this country. Since those people came a long way, did hard work, and became successful people, why cant we be successful one day. We should not give up on those things,” Limbu said.
“ For me and for us is was not that hard, but for my parents it was very tough. To face all those situations; fear of persecution, and all those hardships. I am very thankful to my parents and all the hard work they have done and the sacrifices they have made. I always say that to my mom.”

A New Hope

 

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Where am I from? You might never know.

Overseas lays my heart, but yet here I must grow.

I can’t bear to remain in this place, yet I’m told for a living, this country has grace.

Will I thrive through the difference or create some resistance?

Will I try to fit in or will I die from within?

Because living so different, here, is a sin.

I can’t live on my own, I need help from loved ones.

But when I’m so far from my home…where are my loved ones?

I’ve heard from my family that there’s places that help.

But how can I go when I’m not feeling myself?

And by “myself,” I mean someone who’s “cool.”

Because we all know if you’re not popular, you’re a fool. Continue reading

Baseball and a Dream: The Story of Successful Businessman Fernando Aguirre

By Karlee Dies

fernando-aguirre

A boy. A favorite sport of baseball. A dream. And Determination.

Fernando Aguirre was born and raised in Mexico City. His love for baseball started out at an early age.

As a kid around 12 or 13, his father took their family to San Antonio, Texas to play in a baseball tournament.

“At that time, my dad used to speak very good English and we saw him interact with people and he would speak for all of us, the family. He would order food and take us shopping and whatever we wanted to do,” said Aguirre.

It was at this time that in admiration for his dad’s speaking abilities that he too wanted to speak English like he did.

Continue reading