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Making a Difference in the Lives of Young People in Vermont

By USCRI April 13, 2021

“I felt a calling to return to the school system to build cultural and linguistic bridges for refugee and immigrant youth struggling with the same things I struggled with- learning English, cultivating friendships, developing good study habits, involving my parents in my education, and finding my voice and being heard.”

Meet Noor Bulle, Multilingual Liaison for the Burlington School District. Noor arrived in Vermont with his three sisters and two brothers as refugees from Somalia in 2004 after living with his family for 12 years in a refugee camp in Kenya.

“When you live in a refugee camp, you cannot leave or you risk losing the chance to emigrate, and the conditions were challenging at best. I remember the day my family was chosen and called into the INS office. I was very young, and was selected by the officer from all my family members to answer a set of questions asked of refugees before they’re permitted entry. I was really nervous since there was no interpreter, and I didn’t want to give a wrong answer. The officer asked his question: “If you go to the US, what are you going to do?”

As I think of that moment, I reflect on how important education was to me, and how badly I wanted to attend school. I get to work with and help refugee and immigrant youth get access to resources they need to get the best education they can and prepare for college. After graduating from Burlington High School in 2008 and getting my degree at Northern Vermont University, I felt a calling to return to the school system to build cultural and linguistic bridges for refugee and immigrant youth struggling with the same things I struggled with – learning English, cultivating friendships, developing good study habits, involving my parents in my education, and finding my voice and being heard.

As a mentor and educator, I believe it’s critical to meet students where they are at, and providing that support as they transition to the next level is essential to college readiness. Seeing their progress is so fulfilling, and reminds me of overcoming my own challenges in school when I first arrived in Vermont. People who have been through it are in the best position to change it, and I’m thankful to have the chance to do a job I love and help youth answer their questions about the future they want for themselves.”


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