Parwana had never been to school before when she started 6th grade at Park Middle School last year. She came to the US from Afghanistan in 2022 with her parents and six siblings. Parwana, now a 13-year-old 7th grader, wasn’t able to attend school in Afghanistan. She has a disability that made it too difficult to walk the distance to school. There was no bus. Her father did not have a car. He worked as a combat medic for US forces in Afghanistan, so he was not home to help her get to school. Education wasn’t compulsory for children in Afghanistan. Instead, in their city the Taliban opposed education for girls.

Her sister, Hasiba, who is 10 and in the 4th grade at Westgate Elementary, attended school in Afghanistan and even learned some English. Hasiba was able to attend school, but her father worried about the danger that posed for her. In spite of the danger, Hasiba persisted in attending school. By the time she arrived in the U.S., she was a proficient Pashto reader, able to read practice questions for the driver’s test in Pashto for her mother.

When Parwana had the opportunity to join B5’s Team Read program, B5 Director Theresa Roosendaal remembers her whispering, “But Miss, I don’t know how to read.”

Roosendaal replied, “You don’t know how to read, yet.”

That “yet” has been a powerful word. With help from her school teachers and Team Read tutor, Parwana is reading. And she has another important teacher — her sister. The family has mounted a whiteboard in their living room, and nearly every evening after they get home from B5, Hasiba takes on the role of teacher for her siblings. She drills them in math and helps them with reading and writing. She keeps folders of their work and practice papers. They even “do a little science,” says the young teacher.

Their brother Omar (6) says, “When we don’t know how to do something, she [Hasiba] shows us.”

Hasiba has even created a teacher account for herself on a program called Nearpod, so she can assign practice drills for her siblings. Hasiba wishes her mother had a laptop, so she could join them in their studies.

Parwana told Roosendaal, “My father said if we can read, we can do anything…” And so she perseveres, in spite of the challenges (and sometimes embarrassment) of starting school so many years behind her peers. Her favorite class is art. She would like to be a nurse when she grows up.

Parwana and Hasiba and their brothers and sisters are often at B5, for homework help, Team Read, tutoring, and special events. Parwana even has been skiing with Skyline Adventures.

We sometimes speak of the resilience of the families we serve. This is what we mean — families like Parwana and Hasiba’s. Parents who encourage their children and face the challenges of a new country to give their children a better future. Girls like Parwana, now that she has the opportunity to go to school, who works hard every day to succeed. And people like Hasiba, who not only has to work hard for herself, but helps the rest of her family to succeed as well.

What’s better than our new building? The bravery, kindness, and hard work of people like Parwana and Hasiba and their family.