FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Refugees escaped out of Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover, leaving many families and students needing assistance as they arrived in new communities.
Annandale High School welcomed many Afghan refugee students, and their classmates reached out with a resource guide and school supply collections. Their peers made sure they know they are not alone. Student Sosan Barakzai arrived in the United States from Afghanistan years ago, and she understood how they felt.
“Everyone is struggling in their own way. I struggled and understand how hard it was, how it feels to be just in an unknown place where you must first get used to it and accept it,” Barakzai said.
The school provided outreach to the Afghan families and worked with resettlement organizations like Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington. Meredith Hedrick, the English for Speakers of Other Languages Chair at Annandale High, provides support through learning accommodations, socio-emotional help, language programs and community projects like a food pantry.
“Until you feel healthy, safe and secure and grounded, you’re not going to be able, basically, to learn,” Hedrick said.
John Bailey, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said that schools need more funding and coordination from the government for these academic communities to continue providing for these students.
“What we need right now is just better coordination to help make sure that schools are preparing for the students that they’re going to receive,” Bailey said.
Despite funding and teacher shortages, Barakzai said kindness goes a long way and helps the students adjust to the new learning environment.
“I believe, as long as you help, it doesn’t matter which way it is,” Barakzai said.