An amazing story of survival and perseverance

San Kay Thee and Ba Bler, two  students in the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education, recently presented to their classmates about their background as refugees. Both young ladies are juniors at The University of Akron and are pursuing licensure to become Early Childhood Intervention Specialists.

In the course, Teaching Multiple Texts, the students and professor had discussed integrating multicultural aspects into their future literacy classrooms, and specific ways to make underrepresented populations feel included. And so it was the perfect opportunity to have these girls share their amazing story!

San Kay and Ba were both born in the jungles while their families were fleeing their home country of Myanmar (in Southeast Asia) due to civil war. Many families from their country were trying to escape to Thailand, which has many refugee camps. After a very long and dangerous journey (three of Ba’s siblings were killed during this time), their families both ended up in Tham Hin Refugee Camp. They shared with us what life was like growing up in this environment including how their refugee school was run, what recess was like, and how their families survived day to day on little more than vegetables and rice in just two meals per day (Ba's family is pictured at bottom right). In the picture at bottom left, San Kay and Ba stand beside a picture of their home refugee camp.

Both of their families were offered the opportunity to come to the U.S. after 10 or more years in the camp. They didn’t even know what the United States was at the time! Once they arrived, they were placed into public schools. San Kay had only had a preschool education in the camp because her family couldn’t afford to buy her clothes and shoes so she could attend more years, but she was placed in 7th grade (due to her age) once arriving in the U.S. She eventually graduated from North High School here in Akron as Salutatorian! Ba had attended second grade in the refugee camp before coming to Akron and was placed in fifth grade. Neither of these young ladies knew English when they arrived!

Isn’t it amazing what they have accomplished? They are going to make great teachers some day, and we here at The University of Akron are so proud of them!

San Kay and Ba 1 Refugee children