April 20, 2021
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US-based Refugees from Burma Completed Training for College

29 January 2012 – INDIANAPOLIS, USA: A group of young women dressed in traditional Chin costumes and young men sporting colorful jackets are one step closer to preparation for college.

The Burmese American Community Institute honored 29 Indianapolis-area high school students who are refugees from Burma for their completion of a life skills training class, a part of the organization’s Upward College Program.

More than 60 students, parents, community members and public officials gathered at the office of the Perry Township Trustee on Thursday for the awards ceremony. Perry Township Trustee Daniel T. Moriarity emphasized the importance of education for refugees’ integration into society and for self-sufficiency, while Indianapolis City Council member Jack Sandlin (R-District 24) told his own personal story of steadily working toward college degrees.

“I earned an associate’s degree and then later went back and earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in business,” said Sandlin. He told the students how his own education was earned over a period of many years and how attending college made a difference in his own personal and career achievements.

State Sen. Brent Waltz applauded the initiative of the students who attend Southport and Perry Meridian High Schools. Waltz announced an upcoming job fair for area residents and the future opening of a south-side WorkOne center, a partner agency of Indiana Department of Workforce Development. The centers provide career planning and job search assistance.

Other local leaders attending included Perry Township Schools Assistant Superintendent Robert Bohannon and Gary Loveless, south-side neighborhood liaison for the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office.

Assistant Professor Fengyi Kuo and graduate students from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis’ Department of Occupational Therapy led the skills training course focused on communication, responsibility, problem solving and preparation for college or work.

The training is part of the Institute’s Upward College, a program designed to assist Burmese refugee junior and senior high school students with college academic readiness, language proficiency, cultural adaptation, college and scholarship applications, and personal and leadership competency. The classes are held at the township trustee offices.

Institute Executive Director Elaisa Vahnie reminded the audience how refugees positively contribute to Indianapolis by making it a more diverse and vibrant community. Bonnie Kane, an Institute program instructor, agreed. She told about her own experience teaching English classes for refugees in which she learned as much about the community as they did about the English language.

“I have been to their weddings, funerals, baby showers, and birthdays. It is a privilege to welcome the Chin and Burmese refugees into our community,” said Kane. The Chin are one of more than one hundred ethnic groups from Burma who have sought asylum in the United States due to political, religious and ethnic persecution in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

A 501C(3) US registered community based  organization, the Burmese American Community Institute was established in 2011 with a vision of Education for all, a stronger community, and a mission to build a thriving, self-sufficient, sustainable and integrated Burmese Community in Indianapolis through advocacy, education, and employment.

Reporting by Thawng Zel Thang

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