Imagine being denied a basic education unless you pledge allegiance to political beliefs that you do not ascribe to. This is what Rizan Hajji Mohamed faced when he was forced to flee his home country of Syria.
Oumou Samake was born in Africa but lived in Paris, where she received a degree in social work prior to immigrating to the United States with her husband in 2016. Shortly after arriving, she learned she was pregnant.
Anyone who has spent time at The Excel Center® in Clarksville during the last three years knows Ana Gonzalez, but not many know the full story behind her path to Goodwill. Ana is the director of the Young Learner’s Child Care (YLCC) in Clarksville, where her time is split between planning each day’s activities and putting those plans into action. Years before her time at Goodwill, Ana’s journey began in her small hometown in Mexico. She enjoyed her childhood, but as the region grew more complicated with heavy cartel presence, her family decided to move to the United States.
Laura Torres moved to Indiana at 22 years old without an education and spoke only Spanish. Today, Laura speaks fluent English, is finishing her high school diploma through The Excel Center®, Goodwill’s tuition-free high school for adults, and is pursuing a degree in psychology after she graduates.
Diana Wolfe, an immigrant and adopted orphan from Latvia — a country of northeastern Europe and the middle of the three Baltic states — has been recently promoted as Retail Store Manager in Whitestown. Diana cannot wait to continue growing her career with Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana, hoping to someday adopt a child of her own.
Zainab Khawaja was born in Pakistan, raised in Saudi Arabia, and at 20 years old moved to Indianapolis to pursue her education. This summer, she will be teaching at The Excel Center® campus where she received her high school diploma in 2018.
Seven years ago, Karen Narvaez arrived in the United States from Nicaragua with little knowledge of the English language, but with a strong thirst for knowledge and a drive to succeed. After seeking out basic English courses, she was referred to The Excel Center by a friend in 2015. Unsure at the time of her ultimate career and education goals, Karen enrolled at The Excel Center part-time, with the idea that earning her diploma would help improve her fluency in English. However, Karen’s motivation soon began to change. Despite a transportation barrier, she set — and accomplished — her goal of attending school every day, and even completed her courses at the top of her class in Anderson.
Mohammed Alhamwi’s journey to The Excel Center®, Goodwill’s high school for adults, begins more than 6,000 miles away in his home country of Syria. Like many Syrians, his family was forced to flee as a result of the country’s civil war. As refugees in Jordan, they weren’t permitted to pursue employment or education which left them unable to build a life there. It seemed as if Mohammed’s family was in a perpetual limbo. They connected with Exodus Refugee Project and steadily worked for a more permanent placement. After several years in this limbo state, they received word that they were being placed in the U.S.
Pency Engmawii grew up with 11 siblings in a small Burmese village where education was difficult to acquire without wealth. Education is also approached differently in her home country.
Grace is a typical 5-year-old who likes to play dress up and watch cartoons on YouTube. She’s healthy, has lots of friends and has hit every developmental milestone since infancy. She’s eager to start kindergarten. Each of these things is a small miracle given that her mother’s journey to Indianapolis began 20 years ago and more than 8,000 miles away.