At Clarkston High School, the final bell rings, but Berguissa Barry’s day at school isn’t over. Each afternoon, she joins other students for ASAP, Lutheran Services of Georgia’s After-School Academic/Arts Program. There, Berguissa prepares for her future: studying to improve her GPA, practicing for the SAT, and writing college scholarship and admissions essays. When she was only five years old, Berguissa fled her home country of Mauritania, West Africa, along with her mother and brother. On October 31, 2004, the family arrived in the U.S. as refugees, joining Berguissa’s father who had left Mauritania 19 years earlier. Berguissa and her family later moved to Clarkston so she could attend Clarkston High School. A talented and passionate student, Berguissa threw herself into her schoolwork and extracurricular activities. She played soccer, explored the culinary arts, volunteered for school fundraisers, and ran track. English is not her second language, but her third language; she also speaks French and Fula, a language native to West Africa.
Currently a high school senior, Berguissa dreams of attending Oglethorpe University, Georgia State University, or Spelman College to study medicine or engineering. Her experience with ASAP has been overwhelmingly positive. She told LSG, “Since I started this program, I gained a lot of experience, learned a lot about my colleges, and they have been helping me with everything that I need. I definitely encourage that they keep this program going because it would help a lot of students and we actually have fun here doing different activities that interest students in an educational way.” Berguissa is grateful to all her teachers and only wishes the program had started earlier. She plans to continue attending ASAP until the end of her time at Clarkston High School. With dedication, persistence, and help from ASAP, Berguissa is working hard to achieve her dreams.
Now in its third year, ASAP is held at three locations throughout Clarkston—Clarkston High School, Indian Creek Elementary School, and the Tobie Grant Manor. At ASAP, professional teachers and volunteers tutor refugee and at-risk students of all ages. The program also provides opportunities for students to participate in artistic activities, such as writing in journals, discussing literature together, and taking music and arts classes. Teachers, parents, and students have all expressed delight at the program’s success in encouraging creativity, creating a safe space during afterschool hours, and helping students perform better in the classroom.
If you’d like to support students like Berguissa, consider purchasing and donating an item from ASAP’s Amazon wishlist. The wishlist includes school supplies, materials for arts and crafts, curriculum resources, snacks, and more. Click here to start bringing restored hope, transformed lives, and healthy tomorrows to refugee and at-risk children in Clarkston!