School Board To Host Community Conversations Beginning This Week Monday, Aug 29 2016 

Members of the Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education are scheduled to host a series of community conversations in the coming weeks.

First District Representative Diane Porter will kick off the series on Tuesday with a discussion between residents and school board members. Porter’s district covers the northwest portion of Jefferson County, including downtown, Old Louisville, Shawnee and Portland.

Porter is inviting students, parents and other district stakeholders and residents to discuss policies, ask questions and provide feedback about the JCPS system.

The event is set for Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Foster Traditional Academy.

Board members Stephanie Horne and Linda Duncan will host community conversations next week, according to a district spokesman.

The series of conversations will come in the wake of recent controversy within the district regarding teacher and staff relations.

Members of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, which represents JCPS teachers, held protests earlier this year after reports district officials may freeze teacher pay to allow for a total re-examination of the district’s pay structure.

The protests also focused on proposed changes to the district’s code of conduct, which were adopted earlier this year amid pushback from teachers and residents.

The new code of conduct reduces penalties for certain behaviors in effort to keep more students in class more often.

JCPS officials have also faced recent scrutiny for underreporting or failing to report incidents of student restraint and seclusion. The state education commissioner is conducting a complete review of district practices related to student restraint and seclusion. The review will also include “a broader investigation of district practices.”

U of L Trustees Meet For First Time Since June, Approve Budget Thursday, Aug 25 2016 

The “old” University of Louisville Board of Trustees met Thursday for the first time since the governor disbanded it in June.

The agenda was limited and their actions modest due to a pending lawsuit over whether Gov. Matt Bevin had the right to create a new board.

Even before Bevin’s attempted reorganization, the board was hamstrung by a different lawsuit taking aim at the racial imbalance of the group. And as the political maneuvering and legal fights played out in recent months, the board’s to-do list grew.

In past months, the trustees should have been approving decisions on tenure, promotions and new hires. A budget that should have gone into effect in July was temporarily replaced with a stopgap spending plan. The trustees took those delayed votes on Thursday.

The trustees unanimously approved a 5 percent tuition increase that includes a promised rebate for students who meet certain requirements.

The board also agreed to freeze the tuition rate for 2017-18.

At the meeting, board Chairman Larry Benz and interim U of L President Neville Pinto alluded to the confusion that pervaded through the summer. Pinto thanked the board for their commitment to the institution and noted that the people on the front lines at U of L have endured “without a doubt, a challenging period for us.”

“The true mettle of the university has shown through all of this, and we’ve started with a very successful year,” Pinto said.

Benz also promised more information and transparency about a $38 million loan the university made to its foundation in 2014 the midst of budget cuts, first reported by WDRB in May. The trustees never voted on the loan.

Benz said he’s made a complete request for all information about the loan.

“The commitment you have from me is that that information will be forthcoming,” Benz said.

President James Ramsey resigned from the university last month but remains head of the school’s foundation.

Kate Howard can be reached at khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546. 

This story was reported by WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting

Judge Says ‘Old’ U of L Board Can Meet Thursday, Aug 25 2016 

A judge has denied a request to stop the University of Louisville Board of Trustees from taking action on the school’s budget.

The Kentucky Justice Resource Center filed a motion for a temporary restraining order late Wednesday night asking a judge to prevent the board from taking significant actions during its scheduled meeting Thursday because it does not have enough racial minorities as members.

The status of the board has been in legal limbo ever since Republican Gov. Matt Bevin abolished the old board and replaced it with a new one.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd blocked that new board from meeting last month, and the old board scheduled a meeting today to deal with the budget and authorize a bond payment, among other matters.

UofL retracts claim that IRS also conducting ‘routine’ audit of Purdue Tuesday, Aug 23 2016 

uofl university of louisville

In the wake of IL’s report that the IRS is conducting an audit of the University of Louisville and requesting employment contracts for top officials, UofL’s spokesman said Monday that while this is the first time the university has faced such an audit since 1994, they believe this examination is routine. In addition, UofL claimed the IRS […]

U of L Professor Files Suit, Alleges Malfeasance In Paralysis Program Tuesday, Aug 23 2016 

A University of Louisville neurosurgery professor has filed a lawsuit against the school and its top spinal cord researchers, claiming they fired him in retaliation for reporting patient care and safety issues to the federal government.

Daniel Graves, of the Department of Neurosurgery in U of L’s School of Medicine, alleges the university violated Kentucky whistleblower protections, according to the suit filed last week in Jefferson Circuit Court.

The allegations take aim at Dr. Susan Harkema, a superstar in the world of paralysis research and the head of a program that raises major funds and the profile of the university.

Last month, WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that a federal agency took the unusual and drastic move earlier this year of closing one of Harkema’s studies, citing concerns about the validity of the data and unresolved problems with oversight.

http://wfpl.org/top-u-l-researcher-loses-federal-funding-paralysis-study/[/related_story}

Graves’ status with the university is a matter of dispute. Graves, of Richmond, Texas, alleged in his suit that he was fired by the school.

University spokesman Gary Mans said Tuesday that Graves “is a current employee who has been offered an extension to his existing contract.” Graves’ current contract ends next week, Mans said, and the university offered him an extension through Sept. 30.

The university on Tuesday also released a letter sent in March to Graves by top neurological surgery administrators Scott Whittemore and Joseph Neimat. In it, the two chastise Graves for his financial management of a grant, alleging that he under-budgeted and was on pace to overspend funds to the tune of $54,000.

Graves’ suit also names Neimat and Whittemore as defendants.

Graves and his attorney, Ellen Bowles of Louisville, both declined to comment. So too did Whittemore.

Neimat and Harkema did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the suit, Graves believes that university neurological research procedures “compromised patient care and safety and possibly violated state and federal regulations.”

Graves claims he reported his concerns to U of L, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other “authorities.” In return, U of L retaliated and ultimately fired him, according to the suit.

Graves also alleged Harkema, Neimat and Whittemore created inaccurate reports and falsified documents to support his termination.

Harkema is a big name in the spinal cord research world. Her work, however, has come under increasing scrutiny this year.

In discontinuing a $914,000 study it funded, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research cited the school’s audit and “numerous instances of non-compliance and serious non-compliance” of protocol. The agency forbade the researchers from using any of its remaining funds on that study, instead allowing them to reallocate it to other purposes. The federal Office for Human Research Protections is also conducting its own investigation.

March 18 letter from HHS to University of Louisville

March 18 letter from HHS to University of Louisville

(Read the full letter)

Ethicists and research watchdogs interviewed by KyCIR all expressed surprise at the federal decision to abort support of the study, saying it raises big questions about Harkema’s study.

Harkema said in a June interview that patients were not at risk. She downplayed the impact of the federal action and noted she voluntarily put the study on hold and has addressed record-keeping issues. Harkema also claimed that a few disgruntled ex-colleagues were pushing bogus complaints with federal regulators.

In the wake of the KyCIR report, the university sent an email to alumni downplaying the federal funding move and scrutiny on the program. It read:

Over the past several months two disgruntled former employees have leveled significant, unsubstantiated accusations at one of the world’s leading spinal cord injury researchers, Dr. Susan Harkema. They recently used the media to advance those accusations. Even though the accusers did not avail themselves of typical avenues within academia for noting concerns about research, the University of Louisville followed best practices and upon receiving the accusations, conducted an internal audit to determine the validity of the complaints.

The email also stated: “Our internationally recognized team is one of the strongest research groups at the University of Louisville and truly is among the world’s leaders seeking ways to help people with paralysis. This is a group all of us at the University of Louisville take pride in.

KyCIR Managing Editor Brendan McCarthy can be reached at bmccarthy@kycir.org or (502) 814.6541. Kate Howard can be reached at khoward@kycir.org and (502) 814.6546.

LouisvilleKY one of four cities named to take part in special entrepreneurship training program Tuesday, Aug 23 2016 

SBA Partners with W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Justine PETERSEN to Launch $2.1 Million in Entrepreneurship Training and Microloans for Previously Incarcerated Citizens

Initial rollout planned for Detroit, Chicago, Louisville, St. Louis

PR Newswire

DETROIT, Aug. 22, 2016

DETROIT, Aug. 22, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The leaders of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and microlender Justine PETERSEN today announced the formation of the Aspire Entrepreneurship Initiative, a groundbreaking new $2.1 million partnership to expand access to entrepreneurial education and microloans for formerly incarcerated individuals, with a specific focus on those who are parents. Initial rollout for the initiative is planned for Detroit, MI, Chicago, IL, Louisville, KY and St. Louis, MO.

“Entrepreneurship and small business ownership are proven paths toward wealth creation and financial independence especially for people who might otherwise feel trapped by their circumstances” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “America remains a land of opportunity, a place where we believe in second changes for those who have paid their debt to society. Entrepreneurship can be a ladder of opportunity for citizens who have paid that debt but are still struggling to find employment after incarceration. With the training and startup tools provided through this partnership, these American citizens can finally start to rebuild their lives and restore their relationships with their families and communities.”

SBA

“At the Kellogg Foundation we know that children thrive when their families are economically secure,” saidLa June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “It is vital that parent returning citizens have the opportunity to create economic prosperity for their families. One path to that success is creating more opportunities for entrepreneurship by opening access to the capital and training needed for parents to become small business owners in their communities. By giving parents a second chance, we are also giving their children an opportunity to succeed.”

“At the heart of the American dream is opportunity,” stated Robert Boyle, Founder and CEO of Justine PETERSEN, “And the dynamic partnership of the SBA, W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Justine PETERSEN provides the necessary programmatic infrastructure for such opportunity to be afforded and ultimately realized. We at Justine PETERSEN are inspired and excited about bringing entrepreneurial opportunity to returning citizens and their families.”

SBA will oversee strategic planning for the pilot initiative, work with its microlending partners to make capital available for program participants, and leverage its policy research expertise to craft a comprehensive evaluation design for assessing the pilot’s effectiveness. Justine PETERSEN will deliver the intensive, cohort-based entrepreneurial education program and the Kellogg Foundation will fund the pilot initiative and provide matching revolving loan funds and evaluation support. The Kellogg Foundation will also partner with the SBA to produce a white paper summarizing the insights produced by the pilot initiative.

Background

An estimated 60 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals remain unemployed one year after their release, raising the risk of recidivism and resulting in lost lifetime earnings. This cycle has major implications for American families as nearly half of all U.S. children have at least one parent with a criminal record. In 2015, SBA expanded its Microloan Program to small business owners currently on probation or parole. This partnership expands on that policy change to give parents the opportunity to generate income and create economic prosperity for their families.

ABOUT THE U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION (SBA)

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since January 13, 2012 has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses. Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. www.sba.gov

ABOUT THE W.K. KELLOGG FOUNDATION

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.

ABOUT JUSTINE PETERSEN

Justine PETERSEN (jP) was created in 1997 to connect institutional resources with the needs of low-to-moderate income families and individuals in order to build assets and create enduring change. Furthering the legacy of St. Louis social worker Justine M. Petersen, jP partners with mainstream financial institutions, public entities and philanthropic organizations to impact the lives of families throughout the United States through credit building, home ownership and small business development. Learn more atwww.justinepetersen.org.

Cosponsorship Authorization #16-6010-124. SBA’s participation in this cosponsored activity is not an endorsement of the views, opinions, products or services of any cosponsor or other person or entity. All SBA programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis. 

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Americans Like Their Schools Just Fine — But Not Yours Tuesday, Aug 23 2016 

As a new school year gets underway, the Common Core remains a partisan flashpoint, while Americans overall have serious concerns about the direction of our public education system. That’s according to two new polls.

Education Next, a policy journal, released its 10th annual large national poll of public opinion on education today. And Gallup, the polling organization, has recently released new figures as well.

With results broken out along partisan lines, the polls also provide insight into trends that may affect the current presidential campaign.

Here’s a roundup of key findings:

Common Core: Like the idea, hate the name

EdNext says support for the Common Core State Standards, the K-12 math and English standards initially adopted in 45 states, has plummeted in a relatively short time. In 2012, the first year EdNext asked about them, 90 percent of those who had an opinion favored the standards. This year, the number had sunk to 50 percent.

“The decline in Common Core support is largely due to two factors,” says Lorraine McDonnell, a professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has conducted her own studies of public opinion on Common Core. “One, respondents’ limited knowledge of what it is and who is responsible for it. And, two, its politicization by Tea Party adherents, the testing opt-out movement and some political candidates.”

common core

A quick search of the hashtag #commoncore on Twitter turns up negative posts from both ends of the political spectrum, including from self-described Trump supporters.

But there’s an interesting wrinkle in these results.

When you ask Americans how they feel about “the use of the same standards across states,” two-thirds say they approve. That figure has also declined in the past four years, but not as dramatically.

Of course “the same standards across states” is basically the definition of Common Core. Republicans seem especially allergic to the Common Core “brand.” When the name is mentioned, approval plummets 22 points; the difference is 10 points for Democrats.

McDonnell observes that for more than 15 years, even before Common Core was introduced, many surveys, like this one, have found support for cross-state or national standards. “[Those terms] are concrete and understandable to the public and largely untinged by political rhetoric.”

Growing red state-blue state divides

Partisan divides on education policy are wide. But they can be unpredictable.

In the Gallup poll, just 32 percent of Republicans approve of the nation’s K-12 education system, while 53 percent of Democrats feel the same. Just two years ago, both were tied at 48 percent approval. Gallup authors suggest that Common Core rhetoric is part of the reason.

EdNext found that 74 percent of Republicans now back charter schools, compared with just 58 percent of Democrats — still a strong majority, although Democratic-leaning interest groups Black Lives Matter and the NAACP have both recently called for a moratorium on new charter schools. On the other hand, Dems are now more likely than Republicans to favor school vouchers and tuition tax credits for public schools, both traditional GOP proposals.

Up close looks better than far away

Another result worth highlighting: In the EdNext poll, Americans’ opinions of their local public schools have risen considerably over the past decade. More than half — 55 percent — give the school in their community an “A” or “B” rating, compared with just 43 percent a decade ago.

It’s hard to find an empirical reason for this warming of opinion. Student performance, at least as measured by test scores, isn’t improving.

Still, there may be a sense that “schools are evolving and changing,” says Maria Ferguson, executive director of the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy. “All this talk about innovation may be getting into the water. For me as a parent of two kids in school, the Common Core, for example, has been positive.”

high regard

However, public opinion of the nation’s schools overall, as opposed to one’s local school, is much lower: Just 25 percent would give an A or B grade to American schools as a whole.

Similarly, although the Gallup poll found public approval of U.S. education at a low ebb, parents like their own kids’ schools. Seventy-six percent say they are satisfied with the education their oldest child has been receiving. That figure has been pretty stable for 16 years. And there’s no partisan divide on that question at all.

Nothing new about this, says McDonnell: “With regard to different ratings for local schools vs. public schools in general … that finding is a long-standing one.”

She compares it to the gap between how Americans view Congress in general with opinions of one’s own representative.

For example, this month Gallup reported that just 18 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. However, the last time they asked, 54 percent approved of the job their own representative was doing.

In psychology, this is known as the “mere-exposure” effect: Essentially, people tend to like things better the more they are familiar with them.

“Even people without school-age children have some limited knowledge of their local schools, from the media, their neighbors, following the sports teams,” says McDonnell. “So they are inclined to be less judgmental about them than they are about public schools in general, whose image is somewhat vague and increasingly negative though media images.”

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LouisvilleKY’s SummerWorks 2016 called a success Monday, Aug 22 2016 

Greater focus on placing young people in jobs with career potential

LOUISVILLE (August 18, 2016) – Mayor Greg Fischer announced last week that more than 4,200 young people ages 16-21 – many of them lower income or disadvantaged – were placed in jobs by SummerWorks this year. And more than 110 companies and organizations partnered with the city and KentuckianaWorks to provide those jobs.

“That’s a record number for us, both in terms of employed youth and employers involved, and that’s a huge benefit to our community,” the Mayor said. “A summer job can be a pivotal, life-shaping experience for a young person, and our society and economy need these positive experiences more than ever.”

Fischer said SummerWorks’ “employer champions” hired youth for jobs in hospitals, restaurants, amusement parks, banks and hotels. Working closely with supervisors and mentors, young people worked on manufacturing assembly lines, assisted companies with their IT and human resources needs, helped process insurance claims, worked in television and advertising and helped ship packages around the world.

There was a stronger focus this year on placing students in jobs that match up with what they are learning in school, and jobs in the key business sectors the city is focused on growing such as technology and healthcare.

summer works

“JCPS is proud to partner with SummerWorks because this dynamic initiative directly aligns with our district’s vision that all students graduate prepared, empowered and inspired to reach their full potential,” Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Hargens said. “The hands-on learning that happens in SummerWorks connects the classroom to the work place and allows our students to see how what they’re learning in the classroom applies to their careers.”

Businesses new to the program included Humana, Kindred Healthcare, Interapt, UPS, Starbucks, Ross Dress for Less and FedEx.

“We are thrilled to be adding new employers to the team such as Humana and Kindred Healthcare who open new opportunities for young people to bring skills they are learning in school into the workplace and connect with potential careers,” said Michael Gritton, executive director of KentuckianaWorks, which operates the SummerWorks program.

A combination of public and private funding created SummerWorks jobs at dozens of non-profit organizations and city agencies, including YouthBuild, Boys and Girls Clubs, the Food Literacy Project, Louisville Metro Police, Louisville Fire, EMS, Metro Parks, Family Health Centers, Americana Community Center and Louisville Grows. Funding for those jobs included $600,000 that the Mayor and Metro Council placed in last year’s city budget, $100,000 from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, $25,000 from the Kauffman Foundation, and $10,000 from LG&E.

The Mayor launched SummerWorks right after taking office in 2011, in response to the elimination of federal funding for summer jobs.  In that first year, 200 young people were placed in jobs. The program was recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2014 as one of the nation’s best summer jobs programs for young people.

Other companies participating in SummerWorks this year included the Belle of Louisville, GE, GlowTouch Technologies, Harland Clarke, Kentucky Kingdom, Louisville Urban League, Louisville Zoo, Norton Healthcare, Speedway, Thorntons and YMCA of Greater Louisville.

A new website, www.summerworks.org, made it easier for employers to sign up to hire, and for young people to register for a summer work opportunity.

Fischer said work is already underway to make SummerWorks even stronger next year, and Kent Oyler, president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc. said his organization “is actively partnering with the Mayor’s Office and KentuckianaWorks to grow the SummerWorks program to new heights in 2017.”

“When business organizations and leaders get involved in exposing the next generation to the world of work,” Oyler said, “the future of our entire region grows even brighter.”

 

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IRS Auditor Will Be On U of L Campus This Week Monday, Aug 22 2016 

An IRS auditor will be on site at the University of Louisville this week.

U of L spokesman John Karman said a representative from the agency will visit on Aug. 25 as part of the IRS inquiry into the university’s payroll and contracts for top employees.

“We have not been given any indication this is anything other than routine,” Karman said.

The audit was first reported by Insider Louisville on Friday.

Universities being audited isn’t unusual, Karman said. He pointed to Michigan State University and Purdue, both of which are under audit, he said. The last time U of L was audited was 1994, Karman said.

The IRS sent a letter to U of L on July 7 seeking tax return documents, payroll information and contracts for former president James Ramsey, former provost Shirley Willihnganz and head coaches, including former football coach Charlie Strong, Karman said. He expects the audit to be an eight- to nine-month process.

Ramsey was paid $2.8 million in 2014; more than $2.4 million of that came via the U of L Foundation, and it included deferred compensation and other bonuses. The foundation is also the subject of an ongoing audit from state Auditor Mike Harmon’s office.

This story has been updated. 

For Refugee Students, A Diploma Is More Than A Piece Of Paper Monday, Aug 22 2016 

Five years ago, David Lian wasn’t allowed to go to school.

At the time, David was a Burmese refugee living in Malaysia, where laws prohibited him from attending public school. After three years, David and his family were able to move to the U.S. where he attended Iroquois High School in Louisville.

Now 16, David is already starting his freshman year at the University of Louisville and planning to get his Bachelor’s degree in two years.

He said his passion is what drives him. 

“A lot of people say, ‘you are doing a lot of things, you are doing so much,’ but you know that’s how I graduated from high school,” said David. “I just want to succeed. I can’t really explain why, I just want to succeed at something.”

Regardless of what he’s already accomplished, David said the road to higher education is not easy for refugee students. The two biggest issues they face, according to David, are learning English and understanding the application process.

David said he was lucky to have the help of Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM), a local resettlement agency in the Highlands, and the support of his parents, but he said not all refugees are as fortunate.

‘They Have A Lot Of Barriers To Overcome’

Americana Community CenterCourtesy Americana Community Center

Americana Community Center (Click image to enlarge)

That’s where the Americana Community Center comes in.

The organization, located at 4801 Southside Dr., has been helping immigrants and refugees settle in the Louisville area since 1990. But over past four years, the center’s College and Career Readiness class has been preparing students to continue their education after high school.

During the ACC’s after school program, students in grades six through 12 have the opportunity to attend a weekly class where they learn about professional development, test-taking tips and stress management skills. Once a student enters their senior year of high school they can receive one-on-one time with an Americana college coach.

Americana’s Family and Youth Program Vista Kathryn Shields said the program provides extra support to students who might not be getting the help they need from their parents or high school counselors.

“They have a lot of barriers to overcome,” said Shields. “They obviously have — navigating this new system as first-generation college students, but also as either first-generation Americans or as people who are new to the country all together.”

Sometimes the obstacles students face are cultural differences. Shields said there have been instances when students said their parents did not want them to attend college or Americana’s readiness program.

“We try to explain to parents that college is important,” said Shields. “It’s a really beneficial thing in United States culture and society, but [there’s] also balancing that with the desire of the parents. It may be just a lack of information that’s been given to them in other capacities, but also there are personal and cultural things that might be preventing that from happening.”

Shields said Americana is working to expand the college and Career Readiness program to include parents by informing them about their children’s higher education, and also letting them know that college is an option for older adults, too.

A Diploma Is Not Just A Piece Of Paper

So far, the program has been a success.

In the four years it’s been running, students taking the center’s college and career readiness class have had a 100 percent acceptance rate to college.

Narjis Alsaadi, a 16-year-old from Iraq, is hoping to be one of those students next year. The high school junior wants to be a pharmacist and is already looking at colleges Sullivan University and the University of Kentucky are her top picks.

Narjis said she’ll be the first in her family to pursue higher education, which is something that makes her both proud and nervous.

“It’s made me feel really excited because like, when I visit my country or when I see my friends from my country, I will tell them I will be the first one,” she said. “I’m a little bit scared about that point because this is my second language and I’m from Iraq and all this stuff.”

But Narjis said the class at Americana helps calm her nerves. Through it, she’s found financial aid and now uses a to-do list that outlines what she needs to do each year to be ready for college.

Both Narjis and David say going to college is about more than simply furthering their education. For them, it’s an important step in integrating into their new communities.

“Education is important,” David said. “Going to college or any other classes or any other school is not just to get a piece of paper like a diploma or something like that. [It’s] to learn the skills to engage in this higher education, but also to learn the skills we need in life.” 

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