As Thanksgiving approaches, I am once again excited to watch newly-arrived refugee families experience the holiday for the first time. While it may be a new tradition for many of them, the idea of coming together to share a meal is familiar. It gives us all the opportunity to express our gratitude and build community.
Through my work at Catholic Charities, I am lucky to get to witness many firsts for our clients. Working with our youth mentoring program, I have had the opportunity to watch students work toward their academic and career goals. Trying to navigate the school system in a new country can be overwhelming and scary — taking classes in a new language, figuring out the bus schedule, making new friends. It’s not easy, but their strength and resilience is incredible.
We hope to make their transition a little easier through our mentoring program. We pair students with a volunteer mentor who will work with them each week on homework or English practice. For our high school students, we offer a college and career readiness option that will help prepare them for what comes next. Not only do mentors help with academics, they also serve as positive role models who can provide guidance for our students. They can help their mentees find balance between adjusting to their new life in Louisville and keeping the traditions of their own culture.
I recently met with a student who is hoping to start college next year. She is conflicted between studying what she is passionate about and choosing a career that is guaranteed to allow her to support her family. She shared that she sends money to family and friends back home in Africa, and she is already planning to have a family of her own one day. She would love to pursue a career in international relations in order to support other refugees around the world but isn’t sure where to start. The student is now paired with a mentor to help her explore her strengths and discover career options that fit her goals.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all our clients who have shared their journey with us and for the community and volunteers who support our work here at Catholic Charities. As we continue to welcome families to their new home in Louisville, I invite you to join us for our annual Thanksgiving Celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at our St. Anthony Campus, 2234 West Market St. This will be the first Thanksgiving that our newly-arrived families will celebrate in their new home, and we hope you can join to help welcome them and give thanks.
Katie Norton is the refugee youth mentoring coordinator for Migration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities of Louisville.