In 2017, we had an idea for an event to recognize graduating refugee students. The plan was simple: let students share their own narratives and commemorate who had helped them along the way. They entrusted us with the honest and inspirational stories that made that evening special. Afterwards, we knew this couldn’t be a one-time celebration. Five years on, the tradition continues.
This year we had a small in-person event but we were able to stream the event live on Facebook for all those who couldn’t attend. The recording can be found here.
Each year at our Graduation Celebration, every student receives a College Readiness Bundle. Each bundle includes a computer, IRC swag, a $100 Visa gift card, and some necessities for college like towel sets and school supplies. Our donors and community members have always stepped up and this year has been no different. Special thanks to Break Bread, Break Borders, Corgan Inc., LeForce Entertainment , Northridge Presbyterian Church, Soapgirl, and Northwest Community Center.
None of this would be possible without our community. We are grateful for the enduring support of donors, volunteers, and dedicated people like you. We hope you will remain alongside us as we continue to build more educational services and empower students like those you see below.
Please join us in celebrating the Class of 2021!
Chhua Tha Bihrei
Chhua Tha Bihrei’s achievements include getting 2nd place in district cross country with Conrad High School. He was a member of Eagle Scholars, Rising Leaders, Vickery United FC, cross county, and the soccer team. His proudest moment is being the first person in his family to attend university. He will be studying Accounting at University of Texas at Arlington.
When asked to share one person who supported him throughout his education he chose his mother, Ni Thli. Chhua said:
“Both my parents have been part of my success ever since we were back in our village. My mom took care of us as a single mom since my dad was away in search of money to support us to survive. Although she was struggling with her health, she did not stop working everyday to put food on our table. When we needed something important for school she would prioritize that before anything else to support us. When I think of her greatness, commitment, and love, it encourages me to work hard in school so that I can make her proud and all her effort wasn't wasted.”
Fahad Mohamad Hussein
Fahad Mohamad Hussein’s achievements include receiving the Dr. Emmett J. Conrad High School Certificate of Achievement. He was a member of the IRC’s Academic Coaching program, and a Green Team Member with Groundwork Dallas. His proudest moment is being the first person in his family to graduate from high school, especially while working. He plans to continue his education at Dallas College Brookhaven Campus and study business.
When asked to share one person who supported him throughout his education he chose his mentor and teacher, Linne Shields. Fahad said:
“When I came to U.S. I was 17. My counselor put me in 9th grade. But I didn’t know what to do and I was struggling with school. I couldn't comprehend what teachers said in class and I didn’t understand how to do homework. I had a very hard time back then. I thought about what I’m going to do with my life if I didn’t ask for help, so I joined IRC’s Academic Coaching Program. Through the ACP, I was introduced to Linne. Since I met her, we read a book every Sunday. She is so amazing. If I don’t comprehend while we are reading, she stops and explains it to me until I understand. I love that. Linne is my favorite person. She is very humble, kind, helpful and positive. She also has respect, honor, love, patience and integrity. These are the things money can’t buy. She has helped me through my journey and I really appreciate her. She dedicated her time to teaching me English so I can survive in the real world. She gave me advice on how to go through life, and how to deal with people. This is unconditional love and I can’t thank her enough. The best wisdom she gave me is “to be skeptical and be open-minded simultaneously.” Linne also helps me to make good
decisions all the time. If I decide to do or buy something I ask her, and she gives good advice. She even showed me how to invest and save money, so I can become financially free when I get older. I’m truly happy to have a teacher like her. I have nothing but positive things to say about Linne.
Thank you, Ms. Linne.”
Joseph Thang’s achievements include doing 96.25 hours of community service. He was a member of the Rising Leaders Community Service Club, the Boys and Girls Club, St. Patrick’s Youth Ministry, Love is Ministry, soccer, and cross country at Conrad High School. His proudest moment was passing the TSI reading test sophomore year after multiple attempts. He will be studying software engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas with help from the Toyota scholarship, APIA/Toyota scholarship, and the Terry Foundation Scholarship.
When asked to share one person who supported him throughout his education he chose his father, John Law Naing. Joseph said:
“Can you imagine a father who is willing to sacrifice everything in a hope of better education and a future for his kids? Well, that is exactly what my father, who is now a widower, did. He brought us to the United States when I was just 11 years old, despite knowing that he would have to raise his family in a different part of the world. We didn’t have any knowledge of the language or the culture when we arrived in 2013. However, he didn’t give up on me or my other siblings. Despite all these obstacles, hardships, and other countless difficulties that he faced in his daily life, he continued because he knew this is the land of opportunity. If we work hard and have determination/perseverance, we will achieve anything in life no matter what we will encounter. This is what he called the American dream.
My father started to have unexpected responsibilities and experience both mental and physical challenges when our mother died in an auto accident less than two years after we arrived in the United States. He works tirelessly almost 7 days a week just to earn enough money to keep food on our table, so my younger siblings and I didn’t starve. He kept on moving forward, even when he felt like giving up, because he knew why he brought us here. These are the reasons why I chose my dad to robe me because of his resilience, bravery, and the incomparable courage that he has for his kids' future.”
Joudi Kharchou’s achievements include getting a perfect score in the Visual and Arts Scholastic Event and getting a perfect score in Solo and Ensemble. At Lake Highlands High School she was a member of color guard, Honor’s Choir, various school musical, a NHS officer, and IRC’s Academic Coaching program. Her proudest moment was being selected as the Vice President for Service for the National Honor Society. She will be continuing her education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and be studying Architecture. She has received a scholarship for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Jeff Koons scholarship.
When asked to share one person who supported her throughout her education she chose her Mother, Khuloud Sultan. Joudi said:
“When I was a kid, around 2nd grade, my mom insisted that my sister and I take English classes. Since we lived in Syria, I never saw the point of it. But now, about nine years later, those classes are what helped me get through school in the U.S. Even though I had no idea we would end up here in the U.S. , I'm so grateful my mom did what she knew was best for me. She always did what was best for our family, from moving schools to moving countries. I chose my mom because she was with me in every step, she cheered the loudest in my concerts, waited for me after practice, reminded me with deadlines, encouraged me to always reach higher, was there to say "it's their loss" when I had setbacks, and finally believed in my crazy dreams and made me realize they are just goals. I chose my mom because she is the reason I got here.”
Luelya Weldetensae’s achievements include A&B Honor Roll, Perfect Attendance, Principal’s list- 4.0 college GPA, Top 10% of her graduating class, Student of the Month, Yale Book Award, and EarthxFilm Early Bird Winner. In her free time she participated in EAGLE Scholars, Rising Leaders, Boys & Girls Club (Collegiate Steps and YPF), Guided Pathway Support Program, The Perry Initiative, and HPREP at UT Southwestern. Her most proud moment is being ranked number 5 in the graduating class at Conrad High School. Her plans to studying Nursing and the University of Texas at Arlington with help from the Maverick Academic Scholarship, Women’s LEAD Scholarship, Impossible Possibilities, and the Ross Foundation Scholarship
When asked to share one person who supported her throughout her education she chose her Mother, Herity Said. Luelya said:
“My mother has played a critical role in helping me get to where I am today. She has always been my cheerleader and has encouraged me to do what I love. She tells me how proud she is of my hard work in school and is always by my side to listen and give me advice on anything. Whenever I come across an obstacle, in school or life, she is the first person that I run to. Taking high school and college classes at the same time was not easy and oftentimes I became overly stressed. She would help me cope with any stress that I’d have and would make me realize the importance of giving myself time to relax. She always offers me words of encouragement and tries her best to provide me with the resources that I need to succeed. My mother, including my father Gherghis, have both sacrificed so many things to come to the United States and I will be forever grateful for what they have done to give my siblings and I a better future.”
Mohamad Osman Mohamad Hussin
Mohamad Osman Mohamad Hussin’s achievements include being on the Honor Roll and acing the STAAR test on the first attempt. He was a member of the Conrad High School soccer team, and the IRC’s Academic Coaching program. His proudest moment was being a representative of Conrad High School on the soccer team. He plans to attend Dallas College Brookhaven Campus and study Accounting and Marketing.
When asked to share one person who supported him throughout his education he chose his brother, Hassan Hussin. Osman said:
“He’s taken care of me like his own son since my childhood, and he has always loved me like a brother, a friend, and a father-figure. There was a time back in my childhood, where he stood up to raise my brother and I. He was there to bring me to school and pick me up safely. He was there as a teacher who taught me education’s value, and a coach who trained me in soccer. My love for him has always been unique and I don’t know how to express it. The respect I have for him is enormous. I can forget everything in this world, but when it comes to my brother, he means the world to me. Today I take the opportunity to thank him and tell him that ‘I love you, brother.’”
Na Da Poe
Na Da Poe's achievements include being accepted into Eagle Scholars. He was a participant in Eagle Scholars, Rising Leaders, Collegiate Academy, the Conrad High School soccer team, cross county, tennis, and Love in Ministry. He is most proud of being the first person in his family to graduate from high school and attend college. He plans to attend the University of Texas at Arlington and study Architecture.
When asked to share one person who supported him throughout his education he chose his mother, Mu Klay. Na Da said:
“My mom is my hero. My dad and her have gone through many hardships in order for me to get to where I am today but my mom is the hardest worker of all. She works two jobs, one as an employee and one as a mom. I have never seen my mom take a sick day even when she is ill or has a headache. She will ignore and pretend it is fine and work like it was just another day. Her willingness to work hard and sacrifice drives me to be successful. Knowing all the work that my mom has put in, I do not want it to go to waste. I want to make her proud. I want to help her in return for all the hard work she has put in and give her a life where she doesn’t have to work a job anymore and can just enjoy her life.”
Naomi Pongroq's achievements include being the Conrad High School tennis team captain. She was a member of the tennis team, Eagle Scholars, Boys and Girls Club, Young Professionals in Finance, Sunday school teacher, and running tutoring sessions. Her proudest moment was starting tutoring sessions at her church and seeing the people she tutored be successful. Her plans to attend the University of Texas studying pre-med with the help of the Toyota Scholarship, Women Lead scholarship, Jimmy Rane Foundation scholarship, APIA scholarship, Ford Driving Dream scholarship, Impossible Possibilities scholarship, Dallas Scottish Rite scholarship, and Boys and Girls Club scholarship.
When asked to share one person who supported her throughout her education she chose her best friend, Tha Hnem. Naomi said:
“I would describe her as a blessing from God. It is very hard to find a person that would make me feel comfortable and feel like I matter. She is there in my ups and downs. I would say she is my soulmate. I have moved to many places and started a new life multiple times, and made many friends. However, making friends who understand my true self is hard to find. I remember the first day I met Tha in seventh grade. We both were new to the country at the time. I was annoyed because she talks too much sitting at the back and always raising her hand to ask questions. But little did I know that the girl who is annoying would make me laugh, smile, and happy in the years later. There are many times I am overtaken by pride due to my academic achievements, and she is the one that reminds me to be grateful and humble in those situations. Therefore, Tha is the person who will guide me into the right path and reminds me to be a person who gives positivity to those around me.”
Nikita Pokhrel's achievements include being the Khan Academy Learn Storm Challenge Grand Prize Winner, being on the A/B Honor Rolls at Conrad High School and being in the top 10% of her graduating class. She was a member of Eagle Scholars, Boys and Girls Club, Rising Leaders, and the tennis team. Her proudest moment was winning first place in the Women L.E.A.D speech competition and receiving a $15,000 scholarship. She plans to attend the University of North Texas and study Fashion Design.
When asked to share one person who supported her throughout her education she chose her mother, Aruna Pokhrel. Nikita said:
“I chose my mom because I want her to be proud of me for finishing high school, which no one in my family has done. I want her to be proud of me for being the first in the family to get the most education and strive for higher education. I want her to be here with me because I know finishing high school and attending college was one of her biggest goals. She worked hard and stayed positive so I can have a successful life and this is one of the steps towards that goal. I have finished the first level and moving onto the next and my mom couldn’t be any happier to see me walk towards the life she has been trying to build for me.”
Pay Pay Lee
Pay Pay Lee's achievements include an Attendance Certificate from Texas Can Academy. She was a member of IRC’s Youth Food Justice, Boxing, and volunteered at the Riverbend Retreat Center. Her proudest moment is being the first person in her family to graduate high school. She plans to attend Dallas College Richland Campus and study Criminal Justice.
When asked to share one person who supported her throughout her education she chose her teacher, Laura Laywell. Pay Pay said:
“Mrs. Laura has helped me by providing me with all the knowledge and support I need to be able to face my future. She has taught me a lot about life and about morals and respect. She also taught me what it was like to have someone who's going to be there for you always. Before I felt as if I didn't have anyone. I had to face things alone as if my voice had to go unheard because it wasn't important enough. She changed that. She listened. She helped me through some of my darkest days. She has been so much more than a teacher. She has been my mentor, support, and guide. I know her job is stressful and the hours are long, but she has always been kind and understanding. I am grateful to have been taught by such an admirable person. Thank you for everything you have done for us! Thank you for always being there, supporting me, talking to me, and pushing me out of my comfort zone. Thank you for being the most encouraging and inspirational person.”
Pu Reh’s achievements include getting into the science magnet Townview. He was a member of Eagle Scholars, the volleyball team, and was involved in music programming. His most proud moment was receiving his acceptance letter into the Townview School of Science and Engineering. He plans to attend the University of Texas at Arlington and study Business with the help of the Herrin scholarship.
When asked to share one person who supported him throughout his education he chose his mentor, Dr. Janet Morrison-Lane. Pu Reh said:
“Dr. Janet has been there from the start of pushing me to my limits and getting me out of my comfort zone. She was the first person to believe in me. She helped me get into Townview School of Science and Engineering Magnet and even drove me to and from the schools on days like my registration. Since the beginning, she saw potential in me just as she did with the rest of Eagle Scholars, and helped us push ourselves.”
Ranjita Roka’s achievements include being in the top 10% of her class at Conrad High School and earning first place in Gita Bhajan competition. She was an Eagle Scholars Ambassador, a member of the Boys and Girls Club, Rising Leaders, and Young Professionals in Finance. She was also a leader in Gita class. Her proudest moment in being a first-generation student. She plans to attend the University of Texas at Arlington where she will study nursing. Her $93,100 worth of scholarships include: Toyota scholarship, Welcome Scholarship, Boys & Girls Club Scholarship, APIA Hope foundation Scholarship, Ford Driving Dreams Scholarship, InspireAsian State Scholarship, Boys & Girls Club Scholarship, Women LEAD, Belton Foundation Scholarship, North Dallas Bank and Trust James W. Tyra Scholarship.
When asked to share one person who supported her throughout her education she chose her mother, Nar Maya Basnet. Ranjita said:
“It was difficult growing up without a father who did not want to provide a healthy foundation for my mother and I. I watched my mother face obstacles alone and grow from them. So, I always looked up to her. I remember coming home and the doors being locked because we had to move constantly. But I never had to worry about what my next meal was going to be. Although we could not afford the basic needs, we were still appreciative of the little bit of peace and food on our plate. In Nepalese culture, a home is not a home without a man. Despite our neighbors degrading us for not having the main household person, she never gave up.
In 2015, we immigrated to the U.S., and I knew I would have the opportunity to be someone here. But it wasn’t as easy as I had expected. I recall going to the fingerprint office but getting lost on our way home. I began crying because I thought we would never make it back home. After waiting for hours at the random bus station in the rain, a bus finally showed up. The bus driver asked for the ticket, but I had no idea what to say. However, my mother stood in front of me and I listened as she spoke to him, despite the fact that she had only attended elementary school. This is when I truly understood and realized the bravery she had inside of her. Seeing my mother's commitment to her job and to anything she does, has also driven me to achieve academic success.”
Sidona Fissehaye’s accomplishments include volunteering for 130 hours. She was a member of the soccer team for the International Leadership of Texas and her proudest moment was winning all the soccer games with her team. In the future, she plans to attend Dallas College Richland Campus and study Physical therapy.
When asked to share one person who supported her throughout her education she chose her mother, Mihret Haile. Sidona said:
“My mother, Mihret was widowed at a young age and managed to raise me and my two older sisters by the will of God. I feel so proud to call her Mama because of her unconditional love and sacrifices all these years. For my sisters and I, Mama was our mother and father; she would work all day and then come home and make dinner for us. Even with all of our struggles, she never took a break or showed a tired or defeated face. She made sure we never felt we did not have something, or that our lives would have been different if my Dad was still alive. Many family members and friends always told her to remarry, but she would say “no, I do not want my children to share my love or attention”. I can always count on her unending support and encouragement, and her daily advice has been so helpful in our lives. She has continuously sacrificed so much to give us the best future we can. My mom left behind her family and friends as we moved across the ocean in search of a better future. I always admired her work ethic because it takes a lot mentally and physically to raise 3 girls.”
Tha Hnem’s achievements include being in the top 10% of her class and receiving the Charger Award for tennis at Conrad High School. She was an Eagle Scholar Ambassador, and a student counselor. She was a member of Rising Leaders, and the tennis team. Her proudest moment was learning how to play tennis and becoming the second best on the Conrad varsity team. She plans to attend Texas Women’s University and study Creative Writing and English. She has scholarships from Terry Scholar and Women’s L.E.A.D.
When asked to share one person who supported her throughout her education she chose her best friend, Naomi Pongrog. Tha said:
“There are many individuals that have helped me understand life in many ways. For example, my mom has taught me that I don’t need a degree in finance to be terrific at money management. Papa has taught me to always be compassionate towards others wherever, whenever. Dr. Janet has shown me what a great leader looks like and my pastor, selflessness. Then, I met Naomi. The reason I chose Naomi as my sponsor for this ceremony is because she’s my best friend. I’ve known Naomi since middle school. We first met in Ms. Abreu’s ESL class as rivals. However, through Eagle Scholars Program and collegiate academy, we became closer and eventually unlocked a new level of deeper friendship. Life in high school wasn’t always easy, but somehow she managed to make it more bearable. She has ears that listen as I ramble my opinions and concerns on politics and faith, eyes that see through the lens of optimism, and a heart so pure it radiates kindness and acceptance towards the people all around her. Life has thrown her unimaginable challenges but giving up wasn’t an option. She embraces it all with grace. And last but not least, she has a sexy brain that I can rely on when I’m in need of academic help. She’s walked with me through thick and thin, and ups and downs, and I’m very grateful to her for that. The other 50% of why I chose her is because she drove me here and I wouldn’t want to walk back to Garland by foot.”
Ynes Ineza’s achievements include completing her high school degree and associate degree at the same time. She was a Section and Square Leader of the Marching Band at Conrad High School. She volunteered at St. Patrick Catholic Church Volunteer Outreach and she hosted blood drives with the Red Cross. Her proudest moment is being the first in her family to receive an associate degree and a high school diploma. This summer she will complete the Thomason Reuters Internship and next fall she will study Mathematics and Computer Science at Texas Tech University. She has received the Texas Tech Housing Scholarship.
When asked to share one person who supported her throughout her education she chose her counselor, Sonya Gilb. Ynes said:
“I chose Ms. Gilb because in the past 4 years she's helped me achieve what I never thought possible. She believed in me, guided me, and trained me for life in the real world. Ms. Gilb put her time and energy into making sure I submitted assignments and would also follow up on my grades to ensure my success. There were times where I would procrastinate or fall behind and even then she didn’t overreact. Instead, she would listen to reason and help us come up with a resolution that helped me move forward. She takes time for each and everyone of us without complaining. Ms. Gilb is not just my counselor, she’s my role model. Her tenacity, patience, encouragement, attentiveness and kindness has contributed a lot to my success.”