University High School is a long way from home for senior Isata Ville, who grew up in Sierra Leone. She’s spent the last four years learning English and studying hard so she can go on to college.
Ville’s mother died when she was 5 and she lived with an aunt and uncle and her cousins. She said she felt “sheer love” from them and they raised her well. During all that time she was in constant communication with her father, who lived in the United States. They spoke regularly on the phone and he sent money to help support her.
Her father is from Nigeria, which borders Sierra Leone, and came to the U.S. as a refugee. In 2019, Ville decided to join him. “I wanted to live with him so I could understand him more,” she said.
She was also in search of a better education. Ville said her schools weren’t bad, but were behind schools in the U.S. There are also more materials and technology available in American schools, Ville said.
When she first arrived in Spokane Valley, she began attending English language development classes at Central Valley High School because she didn’t speak English. She struggled, but kept working hard. “It was hard at that time,” she said. “I just kept going.”
Then, the pandemic hit, throwing her into the world of online classes while she was still learning the language. “It was a little bit hard,” she said. “I got used to it.”
She left the ELD program and arrived at University High School in 2022, where she immediately felt at home. “I like it,” she said. “They are friendly and the teachers are helpful.”
She has avoided sports because she said she isn’t good at them, but while she was attending CV she was involved in leadership. While it was fun, she stopped doing it when she transferred to University because she wanted to focus on her classes. “My focus was on trying to pass math,” she said.
Teacher Svetlana Kushnerchuk said Ville has worked hard to better herself. “As an immigrant she has taken every opportunity available to succeed and build a new life for herself,” she said. “Isata stands out amongst her peers as she quietly, humbly and diligently masters the culture and language of a new land.”
Though she misses her extended family in Sierra Leone, Ville said she has no regrets about leaving. While she might want to go back someday, she currently plans to work toward becoming a U.S. citizen like her father. She plans to take a year off after she graduates so she can work and save up money for community college classes. She’d like to study business administration and is also considering a dental assistant program.