Rural students gain appreciation for refugee experience

Soon, they began to crowd around the front of the classroom to look at the everyday items Francis brought with him from South Sudan. Students helped each other try on traditional Sudanese clothing and jewelry, showing off for their teacher and asking the significance of various items.

“I was a little bit worried the students wouldn’t be open, comfortable and engaged. I was worried they wouldn’t relax enough to be themselves.”
Linda Urbas, English Teacher at Melcher-Dallas

And once the questions began, they didn’t stop. Students had been reading "A Long Walk to Water" by Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park, a book about children orphaned by the civil war in South Sudan. Now they were face to face with someone who had lived through it. They bounced in their seats with hands held high and eager to learn: “What sort of animals do you have in South Sudan?” “Do you have any tribal scars like they do in the book?” “Did you ever have to go without food or water?” “Did you lose anyone in the war?”

This was an exceptional experience, according to the students themselves. In a small town of 1200 people where 98% of the locals are white, "We don’t get to meet a lot of new people,” they said.

“School funding is always so difficult. My principal agreed the program was worthwhile, but I don’t know if it would have happened if we had to take money out of the general fund."
Linda Urbas, English Teacher

CultureALL believes that sharing the cultural richness of our community with others will elevate our society and the quality of life for all.