Adapting to a New Culture and Inspiring Youth Through Afterschool Programs
Alavi K., 18 years old, is a recent immigrant to the United States. He shares his experiences in A World Fit For Kids!, an afterschool program that helped him to adjust to his new environment, engage in his community, and positively inspire other children and youth.
What was it like when you first moved to America?
I was born in Bangladesh and came to the United States in February 2013. As a new immigrant who could not speak English fluently, I was always quiet and tried to stay invisible.
When did things start to change?
At my high school, I met a girl who is also from Bangladesh. She was really social and had many friends. One day she told me about an afterschool program, A World Fit For Kids! and encouraged me to join. I met with the program coordinator and completed an application for their Mentors In Motion program. The program trains high school students to mentor elementary and middle school students on the importance of physical activity and healthy behaviors.
During my summer break in June 2013, I participated in a five-day training for Mentors In Motion. The training included physical activities that can be done with elementary students, for example, stretching, exercises, and calculating heart rate. I also learned about the characteristics and importance of quality exercises, clear instructions, and positive communication. After the training, I attended workshops that helped me create a résumé and prepare for an interview. After the interview, I completed a paid internship with A World Fit For Kids!. During this time, I developed a lot of skills—for example, how to approach people and how to do some simple paperwork—and I gained a better understanding of American culture and social norms. A World Fit For Kids! also helped me with my academic work. I started to feel more included when participating and interacting with peers and adults.
How did this training help you?
The training and internship helped me connect with other people and come out of my shell. Even after I completed the Mentors In Motion program, I continued to be part of it. I like this program so much that I continue to volunteer. A World Fit For Kids! changed my perspective about the future. It made me aware of other opportunities that I did not know about. For example, I am now aware of the college office at my school, AP courses, and educational opportunities after high school. The program also motivated me to join other groups, like academic and social clubs.
How do you help others now?
Now I try to help others by talking to them about their future and encouraging them to attend college. I recommend they get involved in clubs and programs like A World Fit For Kids!. For new immigrants like me, I suggest getting involved. I know that it is hard because you think you will make a mistake and be embarrassed. But there are people out there who want to help. If you do not reach for these opportunities, you will never know what you are missing!
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