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Coming To America: Our Best Student Podcasts About Immigration

LA Johnson

When Fahmo Abdi and her family immigrated to the United States from Kenya, they lost contact with all of their loved ones. While living in a refugee camp, Abdi's mother decided to move her family to the United States in search of a better life. "She knew she had to work hard to provide for us and [for] her family back home," Abdi recalls.

But once they arrived, it was difficult to stay in touch. After eight years of attempting to contact relatives in Kenya, Abdi's mother learned that her brother — Abdi's uncle — was still alive.

"But he was really struggling and he was like a stranger," she says. "Their relationship will never be the same."

Nevertheless, she still considers her family fortunate: "Not every immigrant gets to find their loved ones alive."

Abdi is now a sophomore at Auburn Riverside High School, east of Tacoma in Washington State, and she tells her story in an entry for NPR's Student Podcast Challenge.

It's one of many we received, out of nearly 6,000 total, that touched on the lives and experiences of immigrants: stories of students struggling with adapting to life in the U.S., or their journeys to get here, or, in some cases, reaching back a generation or two to learn about where they came from.

Here are some of the standout student podcasts about immigration.

My Mother, My Hero

In this podcast, a ninth grader, Souleymane Diallo, interviews 12th grader Marwa Ahmad Jamshid, 11th grader Bibi Amina Safi, and 10th grader Djeinabou Diallo about their countries of origin, their journey to the United States with, as the title suggests, a special focus on their mothers.

Their entry, submitted by teacher Jeremy Dudley of Albany International Center, in Albany, N.Y., concludes with a piece of advice for their listeners: "Love your parents. We are so busy growing up, we often forget that they are also growing old."

Between Two Worlds

"Is it possible to strike a balance between competing ideologies?"

This is the question that 11th graders Alina Naseer and Umema Siddiqui discuss with 12th grader Efrain Citle-Palestino in their podcast.

Focusing on "the culture clash that exists between immigrants and their children," the first-generation students talk about hard work, sacrifice, pressure and rebellion — all in the context of their relationship with their parents.

This entry was edited by 10th grader Benjamin Joseph, and was submitted by teacher Justin Shepherd of Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station, N.Y.

Foreign Natives

Eleventh-graders Somya Thakur, Sakeena Badrane, Meryem Marasli, and Grace Lee are also first-generation Americans, and they explored what it's like to grow up in an immigrant family in their podcast.

With the guidance of teacher Dave Morris at North Allegheny Senior High School in Wexford, Pa., the students delve into the feeling of being "stuck between two cultures."

Stories from Arkansas

Inti Rios, a ninth grader when she created her podcast, introduced us to guests from all over the world, including South Africa, Mexico, El Salvador and Colombia. In an entry submitted by teachers Sam Slaton and Ian Heung of Thaden School, in Bentonville, Ark., Rios shared the immigration stories of immigrants who now call Arkansas home. She asks listeners to remember that, "We are all people. Legal or illegal. And most of all, we are all equal."

You can find out more information about the NPR Student Podcast Challenge here. You can read more about the winners here and here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jacqueline Nkhonjera
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