Girls Make TRUE Connections
Laughter echoes through the hallways of Foster High School as a group of Burmese girls come in for this week’s meeting of TRUE -- Teen Refugees United & Empowered. As they enter they warmly greet the Nepali girls already seated and snacking on oranges and popcorn. TRUE started four months ago, as a safe space for female teens that have recently resettled in the United States, to discuss experiences and the particular challenges relating to refugees as a small community. TRUE comprises girls from Burma/Myanmar, Bhutan, and several African countries.
The group’s main goals are for the girls to connect across cultures and languages, to find their many commonalities, and to provide support for one another. For refugee students, finding a community is a fundamental building block to integrating with their American peers. While school remains a space for learning together, lunching together and running laps around that treacherous track together, it is simple to forget the individual experience and hardships on the heels of each and every student.
In the past four months, TRUE has had the opportunity to involve its members in a variety of activities. Most notably are two field trips, to the Pacific Science Center and Gasworks Park. Both excursions allowed the girls to see a new part of Seattle that many of them had not been to before. Additionally, in weekly meetings TRUE has engaged its members in community events, informed them of summer opportunities, and provided the space for conversations about what it means to be a female refugee who is new to the US. The girls have grown to know each other well, and in most cases have realized that they have more similarities than differences.
As summer draws near, TRUE continues to progress and members continue to delve deeper into their experiences and those of other members. We have been happy to witness the ability of these young women to evaluate their personal experiences, to critique their surroundings, and to engage with others in the group as they navigate an entirely new country. Each individual is an emerging leader who contributes in different ways to this group, made clear in group settings and individual conversations. TRUE and the friendships made within the group have contributed immeasurably to the girls’ integration and belonging here in Tukwila.
Article and photo by Katrina Go and Elizabeth Purdy/TRUE facilitators