April 12, 2021
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New Summer Academic Program Unveiled for Refugee Students in USA

06 June 2012: A new summer academic research program for area high school students from Burma was unveiled in Indianapolis, Indiana State, USA last Saturday.

The Burmese American Community Institute (BACI) kicked off its Upward College Summer Program at the organization’s one-year anniversary celebration at Winchester Village Elementary School in Indianapolis.

Twenty high school students from Burma were selected from applicants to participate in the program.

Members of families who resettled in Indianapolis, the teens will have an opportunity to engage in action research projects that address issues in the Burmese refugee community.

Students will conduct surveys and interview community members about issues such as employment, healthcare, secondary migration and cultural integration. Teams of students will present their findings at the close of the program on Saturday, July 28.

The organization also honored 23 high school students and 35 adults who marked completion of other institute programs. Students and adults who completed the Upward College Program’s English as a Second Language Course received certificates from the institute and its partner, Central Nine Career Center of Greenwood, Indiana.

A letter from U.S. congressman André Carson congratulated each person who successfully completed the program requirements and the organization for its commitment to the refugee community’s long-term growth and integration into U.S. society.

Biak Sui, one of the high school students who completed the Upward College Program, reflected on her experiences and education.

“Like most of Chin students, I struggle to adjust to the American culture,” Sui said. “I am still struggling and still trying to adjust to it.  My school and study has been a special challenge for me. Particularly, learning English language is not easy for me. I am still working so hard to improve my English, and I believe I am improving because I am working hard.”

Accepted to Bethel College in nursing studies with a leadership scholarship, Sui acknowledged the institute for motivating students to attend college and to prepare them for higher education.

“We will not be able to repay BACI for what they have done for us, but I think the best way to repay them is to do what they want us to do – that is to be a good student, go to college, receive a degree, and come back to our community to help our younger generation and our community,” Sui said. “That is what I am going to do.”

More than 100 participants, parents and community leaders attended the event where the institute’s executive director, Elaisa Vahnie, asked community members to assist with resources needed for the education and cultural integration of refugee community from Burma.

Jane A. Gehlhausen, director of international and cultural affairs for the City of Indianapolis, conveyed Mayor Greg Ballard’s continuing commitment to supporting and contributing to sustainable development of the refugee community.

The Burmese American Community Institute was founded in 2011 to build a thriving and self-sufficient, sustaining and integrated Burmese community in Indianapolis through advocacy, education and employment.

Since its inception, BACI has served more than 500 refugees from Burma resettled in Central Indiana.

It is estimated that more than 70 percent of about 9,000 Burmese refugees currently living in Indianapolis are Chin, with the rest being Karen and others.

Reporting by Thawng Zel Thang

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