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United Nations Features CPS Student's Story As A Refugee

In an inspiring tale of resilience and determination, Rojina Rai, an upcoming 11th-grade student at Aiken High School, has caught the attention of the world with her remarkable book, "I Choose to be Courageous." The story, both written and illustrated by Rai, has been chosen as a featured selection from the United States of America for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) annual Refugee Storyteller Celebration.

The Refugee Storyteller Celebration provides an incredible platform for former refugees under the age of 30, who have now found a new home in the United States, to share their courageous journeys with the world. 

“I'm incredibly appreciative and overwhelmed to see that my story is being recognized and shared by the United Nations,” said Rojina Rai. “I got the opportunity to work with The World Affair Council, where we travel to different schools and share my story with the students. So, this is an amazing experience and it will be useful for me in the future.” 

Rai’s story details her life growing up in Nepal and her family’s courageous move to the States. Rai shared that the title of her book is dedicated to the struggles her family overcame moving to the US and inspiring Rai in helping her overcome her own self-doubts.

The story also heavily features agriculture as an important cornerstone of Rai’s transition to a new culture. She shares her delight in transferring the skills she had learned working on a farm in Nepal to Aiken’s agriculture program which is offered to students. 

“Agriculture is something I enjoy doing, and growing plants has always been a part of my life since I used to work on a farm. My aspirations with gardening in the future are to create a greater sense of belonging among all residents and to inform everyone about the food security resources available,” Rai said. 

Make Tank, a nonprofit organization that creates illustrated memoirs with immigrants and refugees, worked with Rai on getting her story published.

Dr. Kate Currie heads the Illustrated Memoir Program for international students at Aiken and says that for many students, sharing their stories is an oftentimes very personal and therapeutic process. 

“I think the key thing is me being able to sit with students and honestly present myself just as a human being and create a space for them to just be comfortable with themselves,” said Dr. Currie. “Some students are really slow to trust me, but I persist and hope that I’ve made them comfortable enough to be open to me.” 

Dr. Currie explained that she offers help with grammar and translations, but ultimately the story is shaped and told the exact way the students intended. 

Rojina Rai’s, "I Choose to be Courageous" can be read at the following website: