Passing the Test
Melvin and I met because of the GED test, completed by almost a million U.S. residents each year as an alternative to the high school diploma. Every Wednesday for three hours, we met in the IRC’s cramped “Clothing Boutique,” which also serves as a makeshift classroom. There we homed in on the subjects that Melvin found most challenging: essay writing, history and math. Dedicated to the work and to achieving his goal, he completed practice problems and read hundreds of pages each week, all while working full-time.
Melvin is doing it. Despite the traumas he survived in Liberia and the obstacles he faces in New York, he epitomizes hope and perseverance. He didn’t pass the GED on his first attempt, but he will take it again, and he will eventually succeed.
Hard-working and self-effacing, Melvin recognizes the opportunities available to him in the United States—opportunities that are not available in his native country.
I recently asked Melvin if, after earning his nursing degree and obtaining U.S. citizenship, he might visit Liberia, where a simple ailment too often results in disfigurement, debilitating sickness or even death. Melvin isn’t sure he will go back. Wherever he ends up, that place will be better for having him there.
I work with the IRC because of people like Melvin. I work with the IRC because of the feeling of warmth I get when I arrive and the inspiration I take with me when I leave. We are lucky to know refugees who provide so much hope for the future of our world.
Sarah has volunteered with the IRC for almost three years. During the fall and winter of 2005, she interned for 20 hours a week with the refugee youth program. Says Melvin of his mentor: “I like working with Sarah. She makes me understand how to write sentences. She is helpful to me.”