The Washington Times-Herald

Local News

May 24, 2013

Refugee overcomes barriers to graduate WHS



When he got to Washington, his Burmese friends wanted him to come to work at the plant and make some money.

“He realized that working was not the thing to do right now,” Counsil said.

To get his high school diploma, Reh and Counsil worked to get the necessary credits he needed for graduation. Working with nothing but a thin Burmese-English dictionary, the two spent hours daily on lessons.

“He and I stayed after school for an hour each evening and he was able to get all of his recovery work done,” Counsil said. “We actually finished early.”

Because of Reh’s limited English skills, he was able to complete assignments using collages and journals. Several collages depict Reh’s home, including a visit from Angelina Jolie. He actually met the actress and human rights activist when she toured his village.

Reh’s time was not all spent making collages, he also spent classroom time with other WHS seniors. He finished his regular senior English class, and learned English literature.

“I like Macbeth,” Reh said.

Having never driven a car before he came to the United States, Reh finished driver’s education. He now puts that skill to work picking up refugees from Indianapolis International Airport. He’s also a sociable young man and has several friends in school.

But Reh’s success story was not one that was predictable when he contacted Counsil last fall and said he wanted to finish high school.

“The odds were definitely against him in the beginning,” Counsil said. “But he has really applied himself. He’s kept journals. He’s pushed himself. He’s really a role model for a lot of kids who think it can’t be done.

“He’s proof that it can.”

Academic Advisor Tony Barnard runs the credit recovery program at WHS and saw the work Reh put in to get the 14 credits needed to graduate.

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