By Lizzie Kipp
Staff Writer

The United States of America is widely known as the land of opportunity, a place where anyone has a chance to succeed.

It is a nation built upon people from all corners of the globe, working toward their individualized version of the American dream.

This is true for Hutchinson Community College in itself, as the student body contains people from all parts of the world.

Among them, HutchCC recently welcomed some refugee families to the Adult Education Center, which is located in Lockman Hall.

The first refugees began arriving in Sept. 2023. The adults take English as a Second Language classes, also known as English Language Arts classes. Many of these students have children, some of whom come to class with their parents while others attend school elsewhere.

The classes have eight-week periods and are held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The refugees come and go as they please, fitting in lessons around their jobs and families.

Stacia Fine teaches these classes, as well as GED courses. She’s been teaching ESL for eight years and has been at HutchCC for three of them.

She admits that her students’ different levels of knowledge on top of the multiple language barriers can make teaching difficult, but more rewarding than anything.

“It’s really fun to teach them,” Fine said. “Especially when I know that this is really gonna increase their quality of life.”

The majority of the students originated from Syria, but the class also contains students from Ukraine, Mexico, Sudan and Congo. Many of them were able to come to the U.S. with the help of sponsors and organizations like the International Rescue Committee.

The class is interactive. The students are social with one another and enjoy bringing food to share with everyone. They work at their own pace, in whatever way they understand best. Fine uses many ways to help her students understand the material, like sign language, workbooks and music. However, sometimes Google Translate is their best friend.

Reem and Ahmed are a young couple from Syria who take the course together. The last names of the students are not being shared to protect their identities, should they have to return home.

In 2012, approximately one year into the ongoing Syrian civil war, Ahmed fled his home country and boarded a plane to Cairo, Egypt.

“There were many obstacles, difficulties and dangers on my way to the airport in Syria,” Ahmed said. “In the airport, they did not want to let me out, but I paid a lot of bribes so that they would allow me to board the plane.”

Ahmed said he left his home because he was of military service age, and did not want to serve due to the horrific conditions of the Syrian army.

“The recruits were forced to kill innocent people, and if the recruit refused to shoot, he would be executed in the same minute without a trial or anything,” he said.

Almost five years after Ahmed, Reem also fled to Egypt to escape the war in Syria.

Reem said there was a lot of hunger and bombing in the area she lived in. She was working in a school when tragedy struck and she was forced to run away.

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