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  • Writer's pictureLuna Bitar


By: Luna Bitar//

Tell me a bit about yourself!

Lan is a rising senior in high school at Maine East High School. Lan is originally from the Kurdistan region of Iraq and moved to the U.S. when she was eight years old. She moved to America with her parents and younger sister.

What experience did you have with volunteering prior to FORA?

Prior to volunteering at FORA, Lan began volunteering at a student-run organization during her freshman year of high school at Maine East Cares. The club supports organizations that work toward improving human rights and crises through hosting fundraisers dedicated toward war refugee foundations. In addition to fundraising, their club visited Feed My Starving Children multiple times. She took her volunteer experience further by contributing her time at Niles Public Library, where she distributed free lunches for kids 1-18 years old. With intentions to study medicine in the future, she's combined her passions in non-profit work and medicine by volunteering at the Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, all while joining National Honors Society in her school, which builds student leaders.

How did you learn about FORA and what made you commit to it? Why does refugee education matter to you?

Her mother, Arkhawan Salih, began working at FORA, and from conversations with her mother, Lan developed an interest for FORA's mission. Through the stories her mother shared, she heard about the kids' imagination, humor, and bravery. This got Lan excited to join the FORA community. There, she was able to meet and work with new students everyday, hear their unique stories, and cultivate a deeper, worldly lense. Being able to contribute to their progress and motivation toward education inspires her to come back everyday.

Refugee education matters to her because she strongly believes that everyone deserves an education. Many of the students at FORA have had little to no education available to them. Their persistence to learn signifies, to Lan, the value that education has, in not just the students' lives, but their families' as well. She's made it her mission to offer them an outlet to pursue their values at FORA. As a refugee from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, herself, she understands how hard the transition can be when moving to a completely new country. Among having to make new friends, learn English, and understand a new culture comes great challenge, and FORA is crucial because it offers the students a safe space to explore these realms of life. As a tutor, she feels she is not only helping these students enrich their academia, but she is also building bonds with other refugees who've shared similar experiences.

If you have been tutoring for a while, what has been a highlight of your FORA experience, or a favorite memory with your student?

Among her favorite memories at FORA, the fondest lie within her acknowledgement of the kids' ambition to learn. After a long day of public school, they go to their Islamic school, and end their day at FORA. She never fails to be amazed by the dedication of each student.

If you’ve been tutoring for a while, what changes have you seen happen by volunteering with FORA? Why are these changes important to you?

The change that she's become a part of at FORA is in the strength each student has built as a learner, speaker, and reader. With students deepening their relationships with tutors on a daily basis, she gets to experience the unspoken power that comes with FORA's community. Furthermore, with FORA now expanding its space to include the next door library, she's confident in FORA's mission to consistently evolve its learning environment.

What brings you joy in life / what do you like to do in your free time?

Lan constantly stays busy by getting involved in many extracurriculars at her school, such as the Women and Nonbinary People in STEM Club, Investment Club, the National Honors Society, and the Schuler Scholars Program, a selective scholarship program dedicated toward preparing high schoolers for college readiness. Applying her firing ambition toward new hobbies, she recently joined her school's gymnastics team, and was able to build up her sportsmanship. Outside of school, she loves reading books, learning about new cultures through friends, baking, and spending family time.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Lan's experience at FORA has been incredible; it's become her second home because of the welcoming community of students, tutors, interns, and employees at FORA.

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