Refugee children receive books to take home after the ceremony (Courtesy Photo)

More than a dozen children and teenagers ranging in age from five to 18-years-old were recognized June 29 during a special achievement celebration sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington Migration and Refugee Services program. Many of these children and teenagers arrived in this country without knowing English.   
“These children face significant cultural and language challenges, so it is remarkable and worth celebrating these children from refugee families who do so well in schools. They’ve taken the first steps on the path to success and independence in this country,” says Art Bennett, President and CEO of CCDA.
Among the students being honored is Afghan refugee Zahra Wakilzada, a rising high school senior, who arrived in the U.S. with her family in 2015, after several years waiting for refugee status. She knew only rudimentary English when she arrived, but today is nationally recognized for her writings (poetry and drama) on refugee life, being a refugee, and activism on behalf of girls faced with  
child-marriage. She has attended a number of UN programs and been invited to present her work there as recently as October of last year. She is here with her mother, father, and two younger sisters. 
Most of these refugee families hold Special Immigration Visas and fled persecution abroad after helping U.S. troops or U.S. government agencies in their home countries. Before entering the United States, they were highly vetted, and each paid for their own airfare to come here.