Local school teaches life skills to immigrants
The Somali Success School, currently located on 614 E. Grant St., will be moving to a new location in June. Administrators and students say the school has been a location for any person learning English as a second language (ESL) to gain knowledge in a familial environment.
Basing operations from their Grant Street location since 2009, the school is looking for a new building in the downtown Minneapolis area, as many of their students live in the surrounding neighborhoods. Despite the inconvenience of the transition, operations manager Abdinur Ali said he is not worried.
“Our school is not made of a building, but the people who come here,” Ali said.
A majority of the students who attend the Somali Success School are new immigrants from East Africa. Most originate from Somalia, though there is a recent increase in immigrants from Ethiopia. While attending the school, students learn how to communicate in English and are given assistance with things such as medical forms, county paperwork, and citizenship documents.
As the Operations Manager of the Somali Success School, Ali has worked in similar schools for 16 years. He originates from Somalia, but has been out his native country for over 30 years. With a bachelor’s degree in sociology from National Somali University and a bachelor’s degree in management from India Somali University, Ali sees education as an essential tool for success in life.
“Education is the best thing,” Ali said. “Many people come to the States and do not want to learn English, but it is so important. You need to learn so you can be independent and successful.”
Ali has seen much success come from the school over the course of his time serving as site manager. “People come here who have never touched a pencil or pen before,” Ali said. “They grow day after day. They learn how to read and write. They are able to go to the supermarket and buy things for themselves. It is quite an accomplishment for the individual and the school to see people become independent.”
According to Ali, the Somali Success School is one of the largest Somali ESL Schools in Minneapolis and within Minneapolis Adult Basic Education
(ABE). This is largely due to the fact that every teacher at the school speaks both English and Somali fluently. One teacher also speaks fluent Oromo, the most commonly spoken language in Ethiopia.
Accepting students of all ages, the diversity within the Somali Success School keeps the programs alive and exciting for people involved. Ali described the story of an elderly woman who immigrated, came to the school and wanted to learn. “She could barely see, she was so old!” he exclaimed. The school was able to assist her in learning English and earning her citizenship.
“When she went back to Somalia and Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage,” he said, “her family could not believe she was so smart! She taught her son’s babies the ABC’s in English because she wanted them to know that education is important.”
Students attend school Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Night classes are offered for individuals who work during the day. “We want to make it available to everybody, because education is important,” Ali said. Classes are offered in English, reading, math and computers.
Though they do not have a General Educational Development (GED) program, the Somali Success School encourages everyone who goes through the school to pursue a GED. “We have so many people who get their GEDs, then go to college,” Ali said.
With children running around the building that has seen better days, a multi-generational feel echoes through the sparsely furnished school. Ali is proud of the family feel of the program. Tantalizing aromas fill the school daily as the food is cooked for a lunch that everyone partakes in together. Children can frequently be seen
playing outside on fallen tree limbs, and their laughter can be heard inside the classrooms.
Ali has high aspirations for the future of the school, despite the move. Five years ago, the school operated a nursing program, but due to a funding withdrawal by Hennepin County, the program was cut. They are currently working to get it back. Ali also hopes to set up a GED program so students can pursue their degree at the school instead of going elsewhere to take the program.
Ali said that their long list of graduates now includes many diverse occupations, including teachers, nurses, doctors, and entrepreneurs who started their own businesses.
“There is no limitation on what they can do once they leave here,” said Ali.