Second generation immigrant students share their experiences


Zoe Paige

The various cultures represented at Manual are a key opportunity for both educational and character development. Graphic by Zoe Paige

Zoe Paige

Manual prides itself on its diversity and inclusivity, with students who come from homes of varying income, race, culture and expectations. This is reflective of an equally diverse city. Louisville’s foreign born community has rapidly grown within the last two decades and immigrants now account for around five percent of the city’s population, in fact surpassing the population growth of native citizens. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a good number of students are second generation immigrants, or someone who has at least one foreign born parent but who themselves were born in the United States. 

 Three students have shared their experiences of being a second generation immigrant, as well as their thoughts on how well represented they feel here at Manual. 

Jaia Kattan (10, J&C) gave a unique take on her experiences. Both her mother and father immigrated to the United States for college, her mother coming from Uruguay and her father from Argentina. They ended up and chose to stay in Louisville, raising and surrounding their children with South American culture and keeping those roots alive. 

“We eat together as a family every night and tend to be less individualist and more collective, like staying more connected after we turn 18 or go to college,” Kattan said. 

At home she speaks Spanish with her parents and loves being able to bring some of their culture to America through that, readily exchanging knowledge and comparing upbringings with peers. Her parents’ cultures and values have molded her into who she is today and she enjoys when she gets the chance to speak Spanish and introduce certain traditions or other aspects of that into her life. 

“It kind of gives me this double vision where I see how they grew up and how I live and how my peers live and I just see those differences,” Kattan said. “Sometimes I’m surprised at some of the differences because of the norm I’m used to versus the typical American way of living.” 

She finds Manual very diverse, but not without those who are still ignorant to different cultures. She feels that there is room for further inclusivity and celebration of Latino heritage at Manual. 

Both of Rami Alrefai’s (12, MST) parents immigrated from Syria almost 23 years ago. Him and his two other siblings grew up surrounded by his parents’ native culture, food, friends and standards. He has always been proud of his culture and never shy about it, despite being surrounded by predominantly white peers most of his educational career. 

“My parents grew up in the slums in a foreign impoverished country and ended up being a doctor and a pharmacist. Whether or not I am able to accomplish something that great, I will not be half the people they are,” Alrefai said, when asked if he thought he would be capable of the journey his parents took to America. 

He believes that Manual, including MST, is very diverse and feels the large South Asian student body is well represented. It gives Alrefai a sense of pride.

“Manual is one of the most accepting environments I’ve ever been put into that allows people to be themselves no matter what,” Alrefai said. 

Other students, like Khadijah Quinn (12, VA), come from a household with parents hailing from  two entirely different backgrounds. Her mother immigrated from Indonesia when she was 31, while her father is a white American. 

“…being mixed is hard as you don’t know where you fit in and belong,” Quinn said. 

Despite certain hardships that come with being mixed, she feels she has benefited from growing up immersed in two cultures. Her mother has taught her to be a strong, independent woman and to not take family for granted. Quinn is also a member of the Asian Student Committee, where she’s been able to find kinship with other Asian Americans at Manual, especially other mixed Asians. However, she does feel that Manual could still do more to celebrate Asian culture.

For these individuals, being a second generation immigrant at Manual has provided a stronger sense of community due to the diverse student body. Their parents’ incredible experiences have pushed them to strive to excel and be good, strong people within the community. Manual has made strides in order to promote the celebration of its various cultures, but still has a way to go in order to prompt a larger feeling of inclusivity and appreciation amongst the broad student body.