On Friday, September 27, Leah Juelke’s English Learner English 4 students will kick off their Journey to America project with a presentation from author, community activist and CEO Laetitia Mizero Hellerud. The presentation will be open to any South High School teacher who would like to bring their students.
During the kickoff event, Mizero Hellerud will talk to students about her story and the importance of embracing leadership opportunities. A native of politically unstable Burundi, Mizero Hellerud came to the United States of America as a refugee. She uses her life and work experiences to make connections with others, no matter where they come from. Mizero Hellerud shares her story of fleeing several countries and being solely responsible for four of her siblings and her own family as they searched for a safe place to live and learned what gave her the strength and purpose to meet the unforeseen as she finally found a home in Fargo, North Dakota. She considers herself a seeker, a teacher, a learner, a social justice activist, and a strong advocate for community involvement, service, and inclusion. Mizero Hellerud was educated both in Burundi and the US, is fluent in multiple languages, and has traveled extensively to many countries.
The Journey to America writing project is an annual project for Juelke’s English Learner students. The project helps students strengthen their ability to write in English and assists others to better understand their backgrounds and cultures. Students write about their lives in their home countries and their transition to the United States. Students draft their own stories and go through multiple editing workshops to each create a finished narrative story. Volunteers from around the community, including local colleges, provide technical writing support for the students during the workshops. Mental health and trauma is also addressed throughout the unit as students work with local mental health agencies. Anthologies of the student’s stories have been published and distributed nationwide, as well as online. Students do annual public readings at NDSU and Concordia, as well as around the community.