9th grade student at Thomas Jefferson

Where are you from? 

I was born in Congo but grew up in Zimbabwe. I have been here for 6 months. 

What was it like growing up? 

It was nice and I liked to go to school, life was good.

What brought you to Cleveland?

I was in the refugee camp for 10 years in Zimbabwe before my family was placed in Cleveland. It was not a good experience; I didn’t like the food and sometimes they would beat for you being late for school. I didn’t like the refugee camp, I was happy to come here. 

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

I came here and I was happy, they don’t beat you and the school food is free. I thought the USA would be like Canada, and I thought Cleveland would be like New York – but it was different.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here? 

Well back home they teach you English so language wasn’t hard for me. The weather was a challenge because I was not use to the cold. The food here is also different from home, American’s do eat foods that we eat in Africa. 

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

We go to the mosque every day on Detroit road and we speak Swahili at home. I speak two languages. 

What do you love about Cleveland?

I love Cleveland because it is good and the school is free. I love that my mom can buy me shoes and clothes. Back home we could only go to the farmers market. I love Cleveland because the school actually teaches you. 

What’s your favorite thing to do in Cleveland? 

My favorite thing to do here is to swim in the summer. 

Why is it important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

Sometimes it’s war and no food in other countries, people come here to get help.