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Afghan, Vietnamese Students Thrive in US Schools


Children whose parents are immigrants to the United States live between two worlds -- the U.S. and their parents’ homeland.

It is not easy for them to deal with the demands of both worlds. And they must balance those demands with the pressure of being in high-school.

One such student is Aaron Darab, who lives in northern Virginia near Washington, D.C. His family came to the U.S. from Afghanistan. Aaron says he deals with the stress in his life by playing basketball.

“I'd say basketball has a great deal to do with the person that I am right now.”

Aaron is one of seven children in his family.

“I’m probably competitive because of my brothers. They’re always pushing me to do this and, like, we played a lot of games when we were younger.”

Aaron says he wants to be like his older brothers.

“…they’re your role models and so when I saw them playing at a young age, I was just so excited to start playing with them and when I did, basketball is the best sport.”

Aaron is completing his year at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia. The school has students from many countries.

“I’m not the only one from another country, so they’re not all looking out on me. We’re all together on this.”

Gregory Hood is the head of James Madison High School.

“One of the great things about having a diversity of students from around the world is the perspectives those students bring [and] the experiences they bring. It adds value in the classroom, it adds value on the field, off the field -- anywhere they are, they learn from each other in different ways, see different perspectives from each other and I really think that helps them to grow individually.”

Aaron says being different is not difficult. And he says he is happy his family is Afghan.

“Wherever your parents come from that’s where you’re from that’s where your heritage is from, so my parents were born and raised in Afghanistan, so therefore I believe that I am Afghan.”

Qiana Dang is a Vietnamese American. She, like Aaron Darab, is a successful high school student.

Qiana attends Marshall Academy at the George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia. She is part of a program called STEM – short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program prepares students for high-tech jobs.

“Coming to Marshall Academy has changed my life because as a freshman, I didn’t know anything about technology.”

Quiana is now a junior at George Marshall. Later this year she will begin her final year at the school.

“I think that the way that we’re learning right now in high school is building up for us to get into more career-oriented types of learning.”

The STEM program is offered to students throughout Virginia.

Jason Simeon teaches at Marshall Academy. He says Quiana forces him to be a better teacher.

“Quiana is a great character. So it’s really quite rewarding to have a student like that because she does push me to do a better job and to try and bring a little bit of style to the classroom.”

Quiana says the school has helped her think about what she wants to do when she completes her schooling.

“Marshall has given me so many opportunities to go into fields that I’ve wanted to look at with actual career experiences like technology, STEM and cyber security -- my favorite.”

Quiana has many friends and she helps her classmates. She was won awards for her work. She wants to study at Kyoto University in Japan. Until then, she will continue to make her school and its STEM program proud of her.

I’m Marsha James.

VOA National Correspondent Arash Arabasadi reported these stories. Beth Mendelson produced the reports. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted them for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

role model – n. someone who another person admires and tries to be like

diversity – n. the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization

perspective – n. a way of thinking about and understanding something (such as a particular issue or life in general)

heritage – n. the traditions, achievements, beliefs, etc., that are part of the history of a group or nation (usually singular)

freshman – n. a student in the first year of high school or college

junior – n. a student in the third of four years in a high school or college

oriented – n. interested in a particular thing, activity, etc.; designed to appeal to a certain kind of people

character – n. a particular type of person; a person who says or does funny or unusual things

style – n. in a way that is impressive or admired because it shows talent, good taste, etc.; in a stylish way; a particular way in which something is done, created or performed

proud – adj. very pleased with someone or something

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