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ASU American Dream Academy helps Somali parents, students succeed in US

May 17, 2013

This 2013 spring semester, the ASU American Dream Academy (ADA) was proud to partner with the nonprofit Somali American United Council of Arizona. The community collaboration began on March 23 with more than 20 Somali parents and will hold its graduation ceremony at 2 p.m., May 18, at the Council location at 2425 E. Thomas Road, Ste. 10, in Phoenix.

ADA facilitator Iman Ali, a Somali refugee herself, translated the presentations into Somali and naturally reflected the parents’ culture, a model on which the academy operates for any cultural and language group. Ali is the first ASU Dream Academy Somali-speaking facilitator at the Somali Council. She was inspired to become an ADA facilitator when she realized the academy curriculum’s effectiveness in motivating parents.

“When I attended the American Dream Academy program as a parent I fell in love with this program, because I learned so much more about academic success, and how to guide and support my children through their learning journey,” Ali said.

“When I came to this country as an immigrant I had to teach myself how to navigate through the American school system starting from high school all the way to college to reach my personal American Dream. As such, I want to facilitate ADA and reach as many parents as I can so that other parents can help guide and support their children in their education. I want our future generations to achieve academic success and reach their own American Dream, as I have.”

Ali is an instructional assistant with the Imagine Tempe Elementary and actively promoted the school’s partnership with ASU to provide the school’s Somali parents with access to the valuable workshops ADA offers on parental involvement, student success and the path to college.

During the American Dream Academy’s 10-week program, parents learn to navigate the school system, to use effective communication to advocate with teachers and administrators, and to create a positive home learning environment that supports their child’s social development.

Mohamed Aden, one of the Somali ADA parent graduates, said he now realizes the important commitment that parents must make to ensure their children’s success in U.S. education and society.

Aden said his takeaway from ADA was, “Accountability. I know now as a parent that it is my role and my responsibility to help my children with their education.”

Alejandro Perilla, the ADA director and founder of the program in 2006, said that since then, more than 25,000 parents have made a positive impact on more than 60,000 students in more than 400 elementary, middle and high schools.

“These new Somali Americans realize that parent participation is the vital motivation students need to go on to higher education,” Perilla said. “And one of our goals for facilitators is to provide leadership training and development so that they can become leaders in their respective communities.”