Inspirus Credit Union Helps Refugee Children Share Their Stories

With a generous donation, Inspirus Credit Union supported a diverse group of students at a Tukwila high school in sharing their Stories of Arrival.

When Inspirus Credit Union expanded their charter and moved to a new location in Seattle, they wanted to make sure to get off on the right foot with their new neighbors.

VP of Marketing Sherry Lotze said they reached out to the nearby schools to see how they could support them in their educational goals. “Giving to schools goes to the heart of our passion for education,” she explained. And that is how Inspirus became involved in Foster High School’s Stories of Arrival project.

This project, which is in its sixth year, allows Carrie Stradley’s students to help improve their English skills while respecting their own traditions. Her students are English language learners (ELL) and refugees from many countries around the world, so the stories they’ve shared are pretty amazing. This year’s project is a cookbook and poetry collection that allows students to reflect on and connect with their cultures and share how they and their families have adapted to the United States.

Stradley loves how the Stories of Arrival project “empowers her students to be who they are” and share what makes them special. One of these students, Nepalese refugee Jeewan Poudel, wrote a poem about his mother’s kitchen, describing how she moves through the kitchen and how she cooks. Although he’s not planning to pursue further education in poetry—he wants to study computer science at Green River College—he said his work on Stories of Arrival has given him confidence and improved his skill in English.

The Tukwila School District is one of the most diverse in the country—the student body in the district’s five schools speaks more than 60 world languages, and 37% qualify for ELL services. Many of its students are of limited means, with 80% qualifying for free or reduced lunch. “The challenges faced by the Tukwila School District are amazing,” said Lotze. “As a mission-driven organization, we’re showing our membership and potential membership that we’re working with them to build a better community.”

Because of the challenges faced in supporting these diverse students, the support of Inspirus and the other partners was essential for the success of this year’s Stories of Arrival project. Inspirus is hosting a Stories of Arrival exhibit in the branch. Local writer Merna Ann Hecht works with the students to help them craft their poems. And the Jack Straw Cultural Center provided students access to their professional sound studio to record their poems.

Inspirus’s involvement with the school district doesn’t end with Stories of Arrival. Lotze describes some other projects the staff, members, and credit union support that make a huge difference in the lives of the students. “We’re also supporting the Tukwila School District’s CARE program where we donate new and gently used items to support families that need household items and clothing. And we support the Weekend Snack Pack program where kids that don’t have enough food and resources at home can take home a snack pack.”

Editor’s note: You can purchase a copy of the this year’s Stories of Arrival book, Our Table of Memories, on Amazon and stay up to date on future developments on the project Facebook page.

Questions about this story? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, [email protected].