Mastering English Pays Off
After six or seven months, Adel began to master English and make friends with American students. Her turbulent background has made her particularly grateful for the help she received at the High School Law, Advocacy and Community Justice. “The teachers really have this desire to help students… When I arrived I couldn’t say anything, but the teachers were always there helping me, which I really appreciated. In my country, if you don’t speak French they wouldn’t help you.”
Adel, whose favorite subject is math, now lives in Brooklyn with her siblings and mother, who works at Whole Foods. Life is still hard, she says, but “I love it here as I have a lot of opportunities to do well in the future.” The strife in the Congo region – which suffered a long civil war and continuing turmoil – forced Adel not to attend school for more than a year. “You could get shot at in the street,” she adds.
At home Adel’s family often slept on the floor to avoid stray bullets. They used their furniture for firewood and frequently had no water. One of her younger brothers still suffers traumatic flashbacks after seeing their mother’s car set on fire by rebels during a government coup in 2004. She and her siblings were separated from their mother, who emigrated to the U.S. before them, for three years. Sometimes, says Adel, she would cry all day and worry about whether her friends would be killed. “And you worry maybe you will be next,” she says sadly.
“I used to have friends who I emailed in Congo, but some of them died, and it makes me feel so bad. I would just like to pretend that everyone there is fine, even if they’re not.”
“All this experience in my life makes me strong, and if I can help even a few people I will do that,” adds Adel. Her background makes her all the more grateful for the opportunities she was given at the High School of Law, Advocacy and Community Justice. “I love my school!” she says enthusiastically.
Adel, who is now working at Barnes and Noble, hopes to go to college in the spring. She worries about how she will pay tuition, but she won’t give up. “It will never be easy for me; it’s always a struggle. And because it’s a struggle, I will always fight!”