Building Relationships through Stories: Former refugee students share experiences

December 1, 2020

The Langley School District’s values include courage and community. Our schools continue to show examples of this in action. Earlier in the month, as a way to reflect on Remembrance Day, Vice-principal Jordan Howlett at Langley Secondary School (LSS) produced a video to share with students and staff to educate the school community about the longstanding impacts of war. He spoke with students who were former refugees about their experiences and their paths to resilience.

As part of this Q & A, please watch the 2-minute video here below:

Q: What prompted you to share student experiences of war with the school community during the week of Remembrance Day?

A: We just wanted to try to make our students aware that war is not a far gone and distant thing. It’s something that is still affecting lots of people including lots of students in our school. It’s something I became aware of big time when I became a staff member at LSS with our Karen refugees and what sort of experiences those kids had and their families had. And now we’ve got the largest population of refugees from Iraq and Syria in Langley at our school. The kids are good spirited, fun-loving, and if you’ve just met them in the hallway, you would have no idea where they would have come from. We thought that was an important thing for our community to know and understand about their peers.

Q: How was it received by the school community?

A: After showing the video, feedback was positive, with many teachers saying the students were dialed-in, engaged, and it was “eye-opening” for them.

Q: Did you learn anything as an educator and leader from the students in the video?

A: Relationships are important and knowing someone’s story and how that impacts their every day. What I’m always amazed by, with these kids, is the strength of their character in spite of what they had to deal with and continuing to deal with. Trauma doesn’t just go away.

Q: Do you see any positive impacts the video has on the students who shared their stories and the school community?

A: One of the students was very excited to tell his story. He wanted to tell his family story. He felt empowered to do that and to be a representative for his peers and educate the rest of the community. Another student, his message at the end of that video was a fantastic one for everyone, about being grateful for what you have, and knowing that there’s people that have much, much less, and they are struggling.

Q: How does it feel to see these students grow?

A: I’m working in this community with the Karen kids and the refugee students from Iraq and Syria. It’s pretty rewarding hearing about success stories. It’s pretty cool to watch these kids grow and overcome the adversity that they have. A huge credit to them and their families for all of the sacrifices they’ve made.

Thank you to Jordan Howlett and administrators like him for continuing to promote courage and community in our schools. We are so proud of our educators and students for their collaboration.