On March 19, the IRC in Atlanta held its first ever high school graduation for 13 hard-working students in our Connect 2 Success (C2S) program—one of the only programs in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to supporting out-of-school refugee youth ages 16 to 24 to pursue their education and career goals.

The graduates walked across the stage at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College campus in Clarkston to accept their diplomas. Valedictorian of the class, Ruta Haile, originally from Eritrea, shared at the ceremony, “It felt like it was going to be difficult and long path to my goals, but it did not stop me because I know education is important for a better life.” 

A group of 12 graduates on stage and in their robes posed for a photo. There is a projection cast over them that reads "Thank you! Go to the lobby and enjoy some refreshments. Congrats grads!"
The graduates walked across the stage at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College campus in Clarkston to accept their diplomas.
Photo: IRC Atlanta

It felt like it was going to be difficult, but it did not stop me because I knew education was important for a better life.

While three of our C2S graduates received Job Corps vocational training certificates, ten were Kickstart Pathway Scholars—receiving their high school diplomas through a new partnership between the IRC in Atlanta and Penn Foster High School’s independent-study, distance-education program. They each spent between five and seven months attending three classroom sessions per week, with a flexible schedule allowing the students—some of whom are parents—to continue working to support themselves and their families. In addition to the Penn Foster program’s proven success with youth workforce development programs across the country, the IRC in Atlanta team also confirmed that the high school diploma awarded upon completion is accepted by the two most popular colleges for C2S students—Georgia State University - Perimeter College and Georgia Piedmont Technical College.

Beyond the hard work of earning a diploma, this graduating class also invested in their own education—paying on average $500-$700 in tuition expenses with the promise of a $400 reimbursement upon completion of the program. When the time came for their efforts to be celebrated, the students received not only a diploma and the $400, but a full refund of their tuition expenses—made possible in part by generous IRC Atlanta donors—and were also allowed to keep the laptops that IRC had provided for school.

You had barriers, you saw them, you knocked them down. And this is just one more door you’ve opened.

Several IRC community members were present at the ceremony to cheer on the Class of 2022—our Executive Director, Justin Howell, said in his remarks to the graduates, “I’m an educator by training. And I know education unlocks opportunities in your lives.” The ceremony also recognized the dedicated work of Robyn Lau, IRC's Youth Career Readiness Coach who coordinated the program, and of volunteers Lot Bercasio, Emily O’Connell and Ed Jones, who provided invaluable support to the students on their educational journey. Lot read from Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go, chosen for its themes on the challenges and joys of life, and delivered an encouraging message for our graduating class. The poem’s sentiment can best be summarized by Youth Program Supervisor Julie Goldberg’s own remarks to the graduating class: “You had barriers, you saw them, you knocked them down. And this is just one more door you’ve opened.” 

A woman in a blue dress reading from behind a podium decorated with the GSU logo.
Lot read from Dr. Seuss’s "Oh, the Places You’ll Go", chosen for its themes on the challenges and joys of life, and delivered an encouraging message for our graduating class.
Photo: IRC Atlanta

Please join us in congratulating the Connect 2 Success Class of 2022:

Ali Reza Ahmadi 

Steven Weesley Aser Andja 

Kaomi Peniel Aniakou 

Isamar Carolina Coreas Bonilla 

Robel Tunse Gebreyohannes 

Ruta Haile 

Shafiullah Hashimi 

Hassen Ibrahim 

Pau Sian Khai 

Dinah Kourouma 

Jennifer Favor Miracle 

Justel Nsimire 

Nimrod H Woldeab

A collage of each of the 13 C2S graduates.
Please join us in congratulating the Connect 2 Success Class of 2022!

 

To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Senior Development Manager, Heloise Ahoure, at [email protected] or 678-636-8941.

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