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Syrian Refugee Leads His High School Class Just Two Years After Learning English

A must-read for those who doubt refugees can contribute to their adoptive countries.

In 2013, Saad Al-Kassab, along with his brother, mother, and father, fled their hometown of Homs. The Syrian town had been under siege for years at that point as a battleground in the country’s civil war. Although Saad was a very talented and diligent student, his parents knew that the mortar strikes and violent streets were no way for a child to grow up.

Saad’s parents made the difficult decision to leave, and in June of 2014, the family was granted refugee status in Australia. The parents had arrived with no knowledge of the English language and Saad had only picked up fragments from what he’d seen on TV.

Here’s a recent video in which Saad discusses what life in Syria was like during their final months of residence:

Just two years later, Saad learned that he’s received the highest achievement test score in his entire class at one of Australia’s largest high schools. The test is called the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, and it’s similar to the SATs deciding factor among universities in who they accept. The grades run from 30-99.95, with 68.95 being the national average.

Saad led his class with a score of 96.65, all while juggling a part-time job working as a gardener on the school grounds.

He’s now hoping to study biomedicine after being offered a scholarship at Monash University.

His story and mastery of the English language is such that he isn’t just leading his high school class – he’s also giving TED Talks with brother Omar:

He speaks glowingly and graciously about the opportunity he’s been afforded in his new home, stating, "I'm really grateful for being given the opportunity to be able to come to Australia and study here. Despite all the difficulties, I was given a new life.”

He continued, speaking to the difficulty of enrolling in a high school with no knowledge of English "I think the hardest part was getting into school. The community was lovely with me."

Saad’s future remains wide open, but it’s pretty clear from his astonishing progress and achievement that Australia’s lucky to have him.

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