When our former Youth Advocate, Hsa Wah Shee, took a job with the Kennewick School District, we were happy for her, but concerned for us. Would we find someone else who has the skills and heart to work with high school students at B5?
Meet our new Refugee Youth Advocate, Arthur Lopez. Arthur grew up in Walla Walla. He has a teaching certificate and a degree in English from Washington State University. His work experience includes one-on-one tutoring and work in a middle school. At B5, Arthur works with high school students, tutoring and arranging tutors for them. He organizes and supervises group activities for our teens, and coordinates with teachers at Kennewick High School.
Like the families B5 serves, Arthur’s parents came to the US as immigrants. They have faced many of the same challenges as families in the B5 community. Like many immigrant parents, they’ve worked at difficult jobs in agriculture, hoping for a better life for Arthur and his sister. Today, they are home-owners, and both their children have university degrees.
When we asked Arthur for his thoughts about his new job, he responded, “What I’ve realized is the striking similarity between myself and the students B5 supports. My parents’ first language isn’t English, so I’ve had to translate for them; mail, calls, and especially in public. … My parents told me stories of their confusion and hesitation when they first arrived. My mother used to be scared of driving. She had never been inside a car before. Eventually she saw the need for driving as the weather became more severe. I’ve seen my parents struggle for a long time… As I continue to meet new families every month, I see my parents’ stories as reality over and over again.
“Working at B5 has meant breaking down the barriers that our students face. The same barriers that my parents and I have faced… I wasn’t sure how to overcome them when I was young but now I do. I’ll continue to support, teach, and encourage these students that these barriers can be overcome. They believe it! I see the spark in their eyes. The same spark that ignited in me after seeing my parents struggle for so long and getting tired of feeling like I will never get the chance to leave my hometown. I know these students will thrive and continue to thrive for years to come.”
We’re glad to have Arthur on staff at B5. He brings understanding of our students’ situation and challenges, as well as skills as an educator. He’s someone who has walked the path our students are on and can help them find the way to the next steps to their success.