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Summer school celebrates graduation and Somali culture

Along with the regular features of school - academics, arts and athletics - the program offers young people the opportunity to connect with their ancestral culture.

Horumar Summer School offers programming designed for immigrant and low-income families

The Horumar Summer School celebrated its third annual graduation on Tuesday. (CBC)

Horumar means advancement in Somali and the Horumar Summer School celebrated roughly 140 advancements at their graduation ceremony on Tuesday.

The school is open to all, but is designed to meet the needs of the 140 students who predominantly come from immigrant and low-income families.

Along with the regular features of school — academics, arts and athletics — the program offers young people the opportunity to connect with their ancestral culture.

"Many children forget where they come from or who they are," said Sahra Hashi, executive director of the Somali Canadian Women and Children Association. "We want them to remember there's a heritage they need to keep."

The school is run by the association out of the J.J. Bowlen Junior High School, and many of the families in the crowd belong to the Somali diaspora.

The inaugural camp in 2015 hosted about 75 students before growing to its current size. Hashi said the program offers some relief for those parents, while giving students the chance to keep up with their schooling.

"Education is always number one. For them to keep the knowledge they learned from school, not to lose it during the summer program," she said.

There were also workshops on women's rights and Black Canadian history during the month-long course in July. In previous years the school has hosted elders from the community to talk to the students about their lives back in Somalia.

The students walked in pairs during the fashion show, a parade of beautiful Somali dress in vibrant colours. Many of the girls wore the long, flowing guntiino — a traditional Somali dress — while the boys wrapped the tube-like macawiis around their waist, the hem bobbing above the gymnasium floor.

The students also performed a dance for the families gathered, drawing inspiration from their culture.

Hanan Ali, program organizer at the Horumar Summer School, said the school helps students keep up with their academics while also providing them with a space to connect with their culture.

"We all have roots back home," said Hanan Ali, one of the program organizers. "We love to touch on that, instill that inside of the kids and make them feel like home."  

There are nearly 57,000 people with African origins in Edmonton, according to recent census data, including close to 10,000 people from the Somali diaspora.

Yusra Ali, a 14-year-old student, said she was thankful for the chance to learn about Somali traditions with her peers.

"It just makes you feel welcome and safe and it's just an amazing environment, and you will never feel left out or anything like that," she said.​

The Horumar Summer School aims to connect immigrant and low-income youths with their Somali culture. 1:03