The Catholic Social Services refugee program has relocated more than 1,000 families to Anchorage since 2003.
ANCHORAGE – What was once the minority student population across Anchorage schools is now the majority.
Over the past decade, diversity in schools has increased steadily.
There are many reasons; among them, a chance at a better life. Some families move to Alaska on their own for jobs, while others come with the help of refugee programs.
Like any other 31-year-old single mother, Nyanchiew Bichock wants her three children to have an opportunity to succeed.
“It’s a blessing, I came here to [the] U.S. with nothing,” Bichock said.
Opportunity is something she says she never had growing up in South Sudan.
“People are fighting, everyone that had power — they want to be in power, and only one tribe,” she said about the ongoing civil war taking place in South Sudan.
In 2000, at age 18, she said she fled to Ethiopia to escape the ongoing violence.
“We live as refugees, village to village, camp to camp,” she said.
She decided she had enough and wanted a new life for her newborn daughter. In 2008, she applied for a refugee program, relocated to Nebraska and finally ended up in Anchorage with her sister and cousin.
“I think it’s safer here for kids, I like Alaska for the kids, “she said.
She said it hasn’t been easy adapting to life here, especially when you’re from Africa.
“It’s cold compared to where I was born, it’s really hot — like 100 degrees, and here it’s like really cold… I was frozen,” she said.
But it’s now a place her kids can call home.
“In America, they do all things equal and that’s what makes America beautiful … to me,” Bichock said.
She’s just one of many families changing the landscape across the Anchorage School District.
In 2008-2009, the minority student population became the majority, according to the ASD. Minorities now make up 55 percent of the population.
For Tuka Mishra of Bhutan, Anchorage is also now home.
Mishra left Bhutan as a child and relocated to Nepal for a better life.
“Staying there it will be very difficult, we have nothing and no place to work, also, and it was very difficult,” Mishra said.
In 2009, she moved to Anchorage with her husband, Raghu and son, Sayal, now 7, with the help of an international refugee program.
For her, it was a dream.
“Opportunity is equal for all, what I see today: Being a mother, mother wants to make the kids educated,” Mishra said. “It’s available here.”
They’re examples of just two families who share a common bond despite their cultural differences, and are becoming the new faces of many Anchorage schools.
According to Catholic Social Services, its refugee program has relocated more than 1,000 families to Anchorage since 2003.