After 12 years in a refugee camp in the Ivory Coast, escaping Liberia's brutal civil war, Prince and his family arrived in Chicago. Heartland Alliance found the family an apartment and helped ease the transition to the United States with job search assistance, classes in English for the workplace setting, and guidance with enrolling the kids in public school.
Prince joined a soccer league for refugee youth and began taking an after-school course through Heartland Alliance that provides tutoring, life skills, and addiction prevention education. With scarce opportunities for formal schooling while in the refugee camp, it took Prince about half a year to catch up, especially with English. Now an 8th grader, Prince is a solid student; an avid reader, he's in the book club at school.
Impressed with Prince's hard work and his attitude in the afterschool program, Heartland Alliance's staff asked him to join the organization's Youth Leadership Network, which promotes leadership skills among teenaged refugees. Participating in the Youth Leadership Network gives Prince a chance to learn how to acclimate to the United States without losing his cultural identity.
He says the program has helped him with decision-making—like avoiding fights—and given him new perspective on being a refugee and a leader. Someday, Prince hopes to be a voice in Chicago for refugees and immigrants from West Africa, promoting better policies for families who are beginning a new life in a new world. He's already well on his way.