This Is Why Arli Smiles

Often the first to arrive for class, Arli is one of our most extroverted students. She is frequently heard humming in the hallway, chatting in the student room, and greeting staff in the office.

Arli’s been attending classes at the ELC for one year this month, but it feels like she’s been part of this community for much longer. Her enthusiasm and positive attitude are contagious, instantly making her everyone’s friend.

What makes Arli so happy? She explains, “My teachers who help [with] math and to speak, write, and read in English. Before this school, no reading or writing.” Growing up in a small town in Somalia, Arli did not have the opportunity to attend school because there were not many nearby. She also has a physical disability and didn’t have a wheelchair to help with a daily commute. In fact, it wasn’t until age 15 that Arli received her first wheelchair in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

When she arrived in the United States, Arli lived first in South Dakota and then Mankato but decided to move to Minneapolis in 2016. She was drawn to a larger city with more resources for people with disabilities, like transportation, and a large Somali population with friends she knows from home.

Except for one uncle, Arli’s entire family is still in Africa. She is the oldest child of eleven and hopes that her siblings will one day join her here. To aid in the process, Arli is now in our citizenship class (in addition to English, math, and a reading circle) and plans to apply for her interview in 2018. Once she is a citizen, she can begin the process of sponsoring her family to bring them to Minneapolis.

In the future, Arli hopes to work in an office, maybe at a school like ours! First, she wants to learn more English, then get her GED and go to college. We are grateful for Arli’s upbeat attitude, and we’re confident she will reach her goals!