Through InterPlay, Refugee Teens Practice English, Speak Freely, Experiment with Identity []


In the high-beamed auditorium at the Clarkston Community Center near Atlanta, a dozen teenagers sit in a circle on metal chairs.

Each one sings out his or her name, making the sound musical and adding a dramatic gesture at the request of instructor Ruth Schowalter.

Shy participants screw up their courage to become dramatic. The entire group repeats each name and movement, singing the sounds loudly and energetically.

Schowalter asks the group to do another exercise. It begins with the words: “I could talk about …”

They go around the circle quickly.

“I could talk about how much I use my phone,” one says.

“I could talk about how much I want to sleep,” another says.

“I could talk about how much I miss my home,” a third says.

“I could talk about how much I love this workshop,” says a fourth.

It’s the Creative Communication workshop offered once per week to the teens in the community center’s after-school program, which serves resettled refugees. The teens in this program are from various countries including Nepal, Ethiopia and Somalia.

[For more of this story, written by Stell Simonton, go to]

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