A growing community of Somali immigrant families in St. Cloud, Minn., has presented multiple challenges for local educators who have been grappling with not only how to meet the students' linguistic and educational needs, but also how to create a learning environment where they feel safe and welcome. Confronting anti-Muslim sentiment both inside the district and outside in the broader community has been especially vexing. Most of the Somali community in St. Cloud is Muslim.
To help build linguistic and cultural bridges between educators and the Somali community, school district leaders hired Ahmed Hassan and Bishar Hassan.
The two Somali brothers, who are bilingual communication support specialists, have duties that range from providing verbal and written translations into Somali and English, advising students, and helping both Somali residents and school district staff members navigate unfamiliar cultural terrain. The brothers are also leaders in St. Cloud's Somali community.