We are a nation of immigrants. In Minnesota, this couldn’t be truer. We host some of the United States’ largest immigrant communities: Hmong and Somali. After the Vietnam War and under the guidance of the U.S. Department of State, Minnesota became a hotbed for resettlement of displaced refugees from the mountainous region of Laos. At the turn of the century, we began to host refugees from Somalia, which had been in the middle of a civil war for many years.
While it may seem a bit strange in terms of weather and climate, many refugees settle in Minnesota because of the many services that are available to assist new members of our society acclimate to their new home. Since the initial waves of immigrants arrived, these two rich and cultural communities have become an integral part of Minnesota’s way of life. A good number of these immigrants happen to be deaf due to the lack of medical services in refugee camps and exploding shells that damage the ear’s capacity to hear, just to name two common causes.
At CSD of Minnesota’s Deaf Adult Basic Education (ABE) Program, we have been able to give these new residents a chance to learn about their freshly adopted country. While deaf-specific citizenship classes are offered—thanks to the generous support of the Minnesota Department of Education—we have been able to serve at least 100 adult learners, and they have since become citizens of our great country. In at least half of these cases, attending Deaf ABE is the first time they’ve set foot in a classroom; such is the case with current student, Ahmed. Ahmed (shown above) is a 55-year-old learner from Somalia who is working hard to learn language, how to sign, read and write. This is his first school ever.
It is people like Ahmed who drive our work, because we know—as long as they work hard—everyone has a right to education and the American Dream, no matter their age or skillset. From all of us at Deaf ABE in Minnesota, we wish you a Happy Citizenship and Constitution Day!
— Aaron Gutzke
State Director, CSD of Minnesota