U.S. NewsEducation


Nonprofit helps refugees, immigrant women become teachers in US

A new initiative is not only getting teachers into classrooms; it’s also helping refugees in America re-start their lives.
Posted at 8:29 PM, Mar 12, 2023

Being in a classroom reminds Saadiyah Alani of home.

Alani is from Iraq, where she studied to be a teacher.

"After I graduated in my country, I have a lot of dreams," said Alani.

But political unrestforced Alani, her husband—a translator for the U.S. Army—and their three kids to flee.

"I have a lot of memories. We left everything—like our family, our everything," said Alani.

They waited to come to the U.S. for 6 years, as refugees in Lebanon. When they finally made it to the States, Alani’s teaching dreams were delayed again.

"I start working, like, in a bakery until I, like, develop my language. And then I ask if I can work with my degrees, and the people will say, 'Oh, that's impossible because your degrees are not from here,' " said Alani.

But she found a place that recognized her hard work and education.

TheInternational Community School, just outside of Atlanta, is a school for both American and international children.

There, refugee children and their parents are welcomed.

The Refugee Women’s Network partnered with the school to train refugee women to get their teaching credentials.

"This was such a godsend," said Sushma Barakoti, Executive Director at Refugee Women's Network.

Young refugees playing soccer.

These young refugees are finding their way in America through soccer

Soccer Without Borders integrates language learning into soccer practices and provides a community for young refugees and immigrants.


Barakoti says refugee women want to help their families but are often not given a chance.

"Most of the time, women always have the back seat because it's so important for somebody in the family to get a job, and that's men in the family most of the time," said Barakoti.

But with help from the school’s leader, Fran Carroll, these women’s education is being put to use, helping both the women and the school.

"How are we going to solve this teacher shortage that we're facing as well as bring some diversity into our school? This is another demographic that can solve and help solution that problem," said Carroll.

While the refugee women take classes to earn their teaching certification, they help teach and interact with students and families, both American and international.

"Representation matters. It's important that our students see figures in the classroom that they can relate to, who speak their language and share the same customs," said Carroll. "Our American children are able to learn about different cultures and customs, and that information is shared in an organic manner."

And, as the teacher shortage only worsens, the team there hopes to be an example of how to educate and build a community all at once.

"We can approach education differently. And so, it's going to take innovation to really just flip this whole industry upside down. This is something that can definitely be replicated," said Carroll.

And something that, if replicated, means so much more than a job, as Alani says she now has "a future," and "a goal."