Somalis in Minnesota “the girls wear burkas and dark dresses while boys and girls pray five times daily.”

President Trump, in his recent visit to Minnesota, suggested that the influx of Somalis to Minnesota in recent years has mostly negative consequences. I don’t agree.

I had the good fortune to teach high school science for two years at STEM Academy in Rochester, Minnesota. Rochester STEM Academy is largely composed of Somali students, some that were born in Minnesota and others that emigrated from Africa in recent years. These students are generally from conservative Muslim families that practice traditional customs — the girls wear burkas and dark dresses while boys and girls pray five times daily.

Another teacher, prior to my first day, smiled and said, “The kids are talking the minute they get off the bus and they are still talking when they get on the bus at the end of the day.” There was truth to this. Somali students tend to be extroverted, social and despite all of the problems they had faced they were happy.

They were also good students. With the backing of their parents, students at STEM Academy have been and continue to be highly motivated to succeed. Administration at STEM Academy has channeled these aspirations by pointing juniors and seniors toward the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option that allows high school students to enroll at the local community college, thereby receiving college credit in addition to fulfilling their secondary requirements. Somali students have overcome many obstacles in their goal of getting jobs and filling roles in American society.

The energy that Somali immigrants — and all immigrants — bring to our society is positive. I believe that we need the influx of “new blood” to our culture to provide new ideas and ways of doing things. Just as immigrants can learn from us, we can learn from them.

By: Phil Nesse Oct 18th 2019 - 2am.
The Brainerd Dispatch is a daily morning newspaper published in Brainerd, Minnesota.
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