'Generation One': A Frisco Teen Embraces Her Muslim Roots | KERA News

'Generation One': A Frisco Teen Embraces Her Muslim Roots

Dec 30, 2014

Growing up in a traditional immigrant family can be rewarding and challenging for kids born in the United States. Meet a Frisco high school student who’s managing to practice her religious faith and be a regular American teenager.

At Liberty High School in suburban Frisco, Irum Ali, an American-born teenager, has decided to wear a hijab. She wrestled with the decision for months.

Irum’s the focus of the last installment in Generation One, an eight-part KERA American Graduate series that launched in November.

“When I was considering starting, there were not many Muslims at my school,” Irum says. “I felt like people would judge me. So I went through a lot of internal [thoughts as to] whether I should do it or not.”

Explore the interactive series here.

One in three Texas kids is either an immigrant or the child of immigrants. Over the past several weeks, KERA has explored the challenges these children face and the ways North Texas schools are trying to weave them into the American tapestry.

These kids have to learn a new language, adapt to a different culture and try to fit into a community that may not embrace newcomers.

Here are earlier installments:

Chapter 7: In Fort Worth, A School Just For Immigrant Kids

There’s an innovative school in the Fort Worth school district with about 500 students. Not one of them has been in the U.S. more than a year or two. It’s called the International Newcomer Academy.  Most of the kids just spend a year at the Newcomer Academy before going to their local middle or high school. There are about a dozen or so newcomer programs in Texas and more than 60 in the country.

Chapter 6: Leaving Mom And Dad Behind In China For School In The U.S.

A decade ago, about 600 Chinese students attended high school in the United States. Today, there are more than 38,000. For many, it’s their first time away from home and their first time in new country. Meet one teen, Niuying Cao, a 10th grader who goes by Arron, who’s making the transition at International Leadership of Texas, a public charter high school in Garland.

Chapter 5: Helping Kids Learn English -- And Spanish, Too

North Texas schools have transformed the way they teach English – by teaching Spanish, too. At Bowie Elementary in Grand Prairie, Spanish-speaking kids are learning both languages as early as pre-kindergarten. KERA visited Bowie to learn how dual language programs work. 

Chapter 4: How Schools Can Help Immigrant Kids

Julian Vasquez Heilig has spent years studying how schools educate immigrants. He’s a professor at California State University, Sacramento. He previously worked at the University of Texas at Austin. He spoke with KERA and shared his thoughts on what can be done to help immigrant students, high-stakes testing, and a possible breakthrough in North Texas.

Chapter 3: She Escaped Violence For A Fresh Start in Texas

The third story in the series introduces Dilcia M. Asencio Mazariegos, who left Guatemala in 2012 to get away from a violent family member. She attends Plano East Senior High School where she's enrolled in English as a Second Language classes. But she's also been juggling two jobs.

Chapter 2: Going From Spanish (Or Urdu Or Arabic) To English

The second story in the series takes a look at how the Grapevine-Colleyville school district is responding to the dramatic demographic changes. In recent years, the number of students learning English — they’re called English language learners — has climbed 60 percent. 

The district partnered with the police department to create the Grapevine Community Outreach Center. And the district launched the Language Assessment Center over the summer.

Chapter 1: In A Land Of Strangers, Paving His Own Path

The first story features David Kapuku. Just two weeks after arriving from Africa, David enrolled at Conrad High School in Northeast Dallas. He started school in a new country where students speak a different language. It can be overwhelming. Now, a year and a half later, David is helping other refugee kids making the transition.

About the series

Each Tuesday in November and December 2014, stories aired on KERA 90.1 FM. Explore the stories in KERA’s digital storytelling project, which features videos and aninteractive graphic showing where Texas’ foreign-born population comes from.

Read the series here.

Generation One is part of KERA's American Graduate initiative.