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Sisters immigrate to America, find support through transitional living program

June 17, 2012

Reta and her younger sister, Anita, immigrated to America from Iraq with their mother to escape persecution in their home country. Their father stayed behind. Anita attended school while Reta and her mother worked.

To be able to complete high school, Reta enrolled in an English as a second language class at the Cohn Adult Learning Center in Nashville. She worked hard.

Youth Villages’ transitional living specialist Jamie Ball and educational and vocational coordinator Joanne Dixon routinely visit the Cohn Center to see if any of the young adults there would fit well in Youth Villages’ transitional living program. They thought Reta was a perfect fit.

“Reta has a great work ethic,” Dixon said. “She has the drive and commitment needed to become a leader.”

Reta entered the TL program in 2010, working weekly with Ball on improving her employment situation. After two years at McDonald’s, Reta had earned a management position.

Reta discharged last year, and will receive a high school diploma in May. Her plan is to attend nursing school in Nashville or in the Detroit, Mich., area where the family intends to relocate.

Anita also entered the TL program and also works with Ball. One of Anita’s goals is to overcome her academic struggles and complete her education. She has been exploring alternative educational options, and also works part-time to help out at home.

Ball has helped Anita identify a refugee education center in Michigan, when the family moves, to finish her education. Recently, the father made contact with the family. Through help from the family’s church, they will reunite this spring in Michigan.

“There has been an incredible change in both of these girls,” Ball said. “They have experienced personal, professional, and academic successes while in the TL program. It gives the staff no greater joy than to witness their success on a daily basis. I am very proud of both of these girls and what they overcame.”

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