Metro Detroit charter school grad realizes college dream for first-gen Iraqi immigrants

Madison Norfleet
Aug 1, 2022 10:00:00 AM

Farah Kareem is a graduated senior from Star International Academy(SIA), a charter school in Dearborn Heights that is surrounded by a primarily Middle Eastern immigrant population. The school serves a highly diverse student population that includes many immigrants, refugees, first-generation Americans and English-language learners. SIA gives them the support and wraparound services they need to be successful in college and careers.

Graduate Portrait

Farah came to the school after her parents had to flee war-torn Iraq before she was born. They were in a new country and had a growing family, but thankfully found a high-achieving charter school that caters to a largely Arab-American community, and could uniquely support their needs. 

Farah attended SIA from 3rd grade until she graduated this year. Her parents chose the school for its mission to prepare  students to be independent, lifelong learners and productive working members of a global society through acquiring diverse knowledge, experiences and skills. Since Farah’s parents did not get to attend college, they knew SIA would be the best place to nurture her education and ensure she had the opportunities they didn’t. Farah was very involved in her school as she played volleyball and soccer, ran  social media for two school accounts, and was a member of National Honors Society and a stellar student. 

Despite COVID cutting her high school experience short she still loved the connections she formed with teachers, administrators, and her fellow classmates. Farah said, 

“My favorite thing up until this day is that our school community is very small, so we grew up together. When I walked across the stage and saw people from my middle school or my elementary classes graduating with me, I’m like ‘Oh my god! We were babies and now we’re here’... We’re like a family, you know?”

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Farah is attending classes at the University of Michigan through this summer as an undecided major, with decided minors in Business Administration and Computer Science. She is currently enrolled in a program that takes diverse, first-generation, low income students to prepare them for the fall semester. She continues to play volleyball and will hopefully be able to play soccer as well. 

As she moves into this next big adventure, Farah is proud of her roots as a first generation Iraqi-American.  Her father emigrated from Iraq in the late 90s and started a life in Seattle, then New York before going back to Iraq where he would marry Farah’s mother. They were eventually displaced from the wars and moved back to the life Farah’s father had started in the United States. Since her parents weren’t able to go to college, she feels that by attending a prestigious college, she’s making her parents proud.  Farah’s older sister is currently attending college at Yale, and her three younger siblings also attend SIA.

For many immigrant parents, moving to a new country offers hope for a better future, especially for their children - and discovering school communities who can embrace and support cultural and language needs can be a key element to realizing that dream. SIA has become that special place for the Kareem family, as they send another amazing grad off to college and beyond. Congratulations to Farah and all our 2022 Michigan charter school grads! We can’t wait to see what impact you make on the world. 

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