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CANADA: Edmonton's Somali community celebrate latest group high school graduates


BY CLARE CLANCY, POSTMEDIA NETWORK
Sunday, July 10, 2016

Somali Canadian Society of Edmonton president Jibril Ibrahim takes part in a press conference where the Alberta government announced $1.61 million in funding for 12 crime prevention and victims support programs through the Civil Forfeiture Fund, Friday Aug. 17, 2012. The press conference was held at the Africa Centre gymnasium, 13160 - 127 Street. DAVID BLOOM EDMONTON SUN


Edmonton's Somali community is celebrating its latest group of promising high school graduates.

Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Cultural Society of Edmonton, said some of the 60 students being recognized have faced significant challenges.

"Because of the displacements and civil war in Somalia, a lot of (people in the community) ended up in refugee camps," he said. When students have moved from Somalia to Canada, they often need to start at a lower grade than their peers, he added.

"How can you support someone who you put at a Grade 8 level but they only have a Grade 3 education?"

The question led the society to create a homework club, which offers academic support to students in Grades 3 to 12.
Ibrahim said the graduation is a testament to the inspiring youth in the community, which has been at times plagued by violence. Nearly 50 young people in Edmonton have died as a result of violent crimes since 2004.

"It makes us feel proud of students pursuing more and more education instead of dropping out and being recruited by gangs," he said. "The more graduates we have, the more … the community will be economically uplifted."

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Yonis Jama, 17, a regular at the homework club since Grade 8, said it helped him boost his marks.

"It’s an amazing place to go to get help ... it's more like a family," said Jama, who will attend MacEwan University in the fall. "This really helps keep (students) on track, and their parents trust the organization."

He said the graduation ceremony planned for Saturday night at Northlands holds important meaning for him.

"I feel like this one gives me more recognition from the community itself," he said. "My family, friends, everybody, aunts, uncles will see everything I’m going to achieve."

The society has hosted a graduation for the past eight years and for the first time, a handful of deaf students will also be recognized.

“It is very significant because we need to celebrate all ... our students, if there are challenges, or special needs. We need to give them an equal platform," said Ibrahim, who plans to create a scholarship program to help students succeed after graduation.

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