Celebrating Immigrant Youth Scholars

The Asian Center’s youth programs mentor and develop immigrant and refugee students, building skills while exploring and celebrating their cultures. Finding success in school can be challenging for New American students who are learning a new language and navigating a new culture. In addition, students frequently find themselves needed as interpreters for their families, placing them in stressful situations unknown to their US-born peers.

At the Asian Center, youth programs begin in middle school and follow students through graduation. We partner with Lincoln Public Schools to reach students in their schools, mentoring and supporting youth as they grow. Building community and helping students find paths to higher education are high priorities.

Recently, the Asian Center youth programs celebrated graduating high school seniors. Supported by proud families, students received awards and scholarships and enjoyed refreshments, conversation, and games. LPS leaders also joined the celebration, cheering on the students as awards were announced.

We chatted with three Lincoln High graduating seniors who came up through Asian Center youth programs. All three young men came to Lincoln with their families at a young age from refugee camps in Thailand.

“Lincoln is home to me! It’s a place where a lot of refugees come, and I can relate to their stories. I just feel belonging,” said Eh Ta Taw with a smile.

Hla Win and Thi Oo agreed. “I love that we have a big Karen community with many events and celebrations. We host soccer tournaments. Lots of things throughout the year!” said Hla Win. 

With help from Asian Center staff, students apply for scholarships to make a college education accessible. Families fleeing persecution don’t have wealth to bring with them, but the resilience that often accompanies refugee students is unquenchable. 

“The Asian Center is creating great things for youth. They help us with scholarships. That’s a big deal for us! I got the Susan Buffett Scholarship,” said Eh Ta Taw.

All three graduates are excited to continue their educational journeys. Both Eh Ta Taw and Hla Win are Susan Buffett Scholarship recipients, attending UNL in the fall. Thi Oo has a full-ride scholarship to Southeast Community College.

We are incredibly proud of these young adults for their hard work, and commitment to excellence and community! Congratulations to all our graduates!!