Yesterday afternoon, “Pomp and Circumstance” played as students from Lewis and Clark High School walked out of Spokane Veterans Arena. The new alumni posed for photos with family and friends, smiled, and celebrated. Among those many students are a cadre of recent additions to the Spokane community: former refugees.

Moses and Rebecca are two students in that group, both graduating from Lewis and Clark and choosing to further their education elsewhere. Their stories are nothing short of inspiring.

Rebecca came to the United States four years ago from Rwanda by way of Malawi. She started at Lewis and Clark as a freshman four years ago where the school system was much different than her experience in East Africa.

Rebecca had to handle six longer classes instead of 12 short ones, make new friends, learn more English, and pick up on a brand new culture. In the face of all of those challenges, it would have been easy to quit. She wouldn’t.

She asked questions when she struggled in English and Math, and got more comfortable in the subjects as she grew. By the time her junior year rolled around, Rebecca said she knew, “I’ve got this.”

That determination paid off yesterday when she received her degree, and it will continue to serve her well when she continues her education at Spokane Community College next fall. Rebecca’s brother currently goes to Spokane CC, and both plan to head to four-year universities after earning their Associates degrees right here at home.

“I didn’t quit,” Rebecca said. “I’m proud to be willing to ask questions and get help.”

Moses’ story is equally heartwarming. He and his family fled from war in Congo, and came to the United States two years ago. Moses’ transition to Spokane was equally tough, but he said he’s found a home here alongside his mom, four brothers, and sister.

Just like it is for any student, the first day at a new school was probably the most difficult, but the nervousness is amplified even more when everything is changing. In contrast to a student moving from within the United States to Spokane, coming from the Congo meant Moses had to use his second-best language and acclimate to a new system of schooling.

“I was scared,” Moses said. “Everything was new back then.”

After and finding new friends and growing into the Spokane school system, Moses says he’s glad to be here. When asked if he considers Spokane to be home, there’s not even an ounce of hesitation before an enthusiastic “Yes!” rings into your eardrums. He says every teacher is his favorite one, and loves to talk about his friends.

Now, the transition comes to a fitting end, with Moses and his twin brother Elijah having been handed their diplomas just a couple hours ago. He’s excited, and extremely thankful.

“I want to thank World Relief, he said. “We wouldn’t be here without them.”