Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Students give thanks for America and Sullivan High

Melak Alhajmani, 16, (far left) a junior from Iraq, smiles at Oyinea Alonge, 17, from Nigeria, while students give thanks during Sullivan High School’s third Thanksgiving celebration.

     Before tucking into dinner at Sullivan High School’s Thanksgiving celebration last week, Sarah Quintenz, leader of the Rogers Park school’s International Academy, asked the 180 participants — students, teachers, alumni, guests from the community — to stand, hold hands, and give thanks.
     She started us off in English.
     ”For food, for raiment, for life, for opportunity, for friendship and fellowship, we thank thee O Lord,” said Quintenz. “Bless the cook and bless the dishwasher.”
     That drew a chuckle from the kids, whom she then asked to give thanks, each in their own native language. 
Chance Uwera, 16, left, and Josiane Irafasha, 19,
    ”Iman ihey umah dishey ... ” Chance Uwera, 16 began at our table. Next was Josiane Irafasha, 19, both speaking in Kinyarwanda, one of four official languages of Rwanda.
     ”Thanks, for having a life,” translated Uwera. “God bless everyone who’s here and in the whole world.”
     A world well-represented among the 650 students attending Sullivan, long a magnet for immigrants.
     ”Sullivan’s probably one of the most diverse schools in the city of Chicago,” said principal Chad Thomas. “We have kids from all over the world — over 40 languages spoken here.”
     In 2017, partly in reaction to growing anti-immigrant rhetoric in the United States, Sullivan decided to hold a school Thanksgiving. Among those celebrating their first Thanksgiving dinner last week was Shahin Keliby, who thanked her parents and “the American government.”
     ”They allowed us in and we are here,” said the senior, 18, a Muslim from Burma. “Three years and two months.”
     The event, organized by the Friends of Sullivan, reflects the diverse face of our country’s future.

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Shahin Keliby, came to the United States from Burma "three years and two months" ago.


  1. Lovely. This embodies the true spirit of the holiday. Thanks!

  2. The United States is changing: there's no doubt about that. About now it seems like for every step forward we take 2 steps back. But like a sports team hopelessly behind in the score, we can and should celebrate our last minute touchdowns and 9th inning home runs. Hip hip hooray for Sullivan High School!



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