Abdulkader Al-Bayati spoke very little English when he started at a Washington state high school last year. He was born and raised in Iraq. When he was 14 he moved to Turkey. From there, he moved with his brother and mother to Everett through an agreement under the United Nations.
"He is an outstanding student and a model citizen — always looking for ways to give to the less fortunate," Mariner High School Assistant Principal Rebecca Porter said.
Question: You grew up in Iraq?
Answer: I was born in Iraq and lived there for 13½, 14 years. Then we moved to Turkey. My families are related to Turkey. We lived there for four years and then came to live in the United States (in August 2015).
Q: What did you think of American culture?
A: Before I moved to the United States, I had fear of the culture and reality. What we saw in our countries was the bad side of America, like drugs.
The teachers made me to love this country. They present the perfect picture of America to me. I am so grateful to be in this country.
Q: What prompted your family to leave Iraq?
A: The situation was not that good. The threats, and bad life situation with the militias. The life situation wasn't safe.
Q: Was it scary?
A: It was, but there was no solution. There was nothing we could do about it. So we left. We didn't know what would happen in the next minute.
Q: You were able to stay with family in Turkey, but school was another matter.
A: They didn't accept me as a student because I couldn't speak the language, Turkish. So they accepted me to learn the language only.
Even in Iraq, my education was on hold two years because of the bombs. In our area it wasn't safe.
Q: That must have been difficult to learn one new language after another.
A: I really like languages, actually. I really had to work. It was a big challenge. And I learned it.
Q: With the gap in schooling, you're only a junior at Mariner High School.
A: I didn't bring my progress reports and things from my country. So they put me as a sophomore last year.
Q: Was that disappointing?
A: No, because I'm getting education, and I am focusing on one thing — getting an education . so I am prepared for the future. . I love this school and want to spend as much time as I can here. Because the teachers and everyone have really helped me.
Q: You are currently taking English, U.S. history, biology, algebra, geometry and English language classes. Do you have a favorite?
A: All of them.
Q: How is education here different from your experience in Iraq?
A: The teachers work harder than the students. They make it as easy as they can for you to understand. Once you love the teacher, you will love the class — and that will affect the school in general.
(In Iraq) there wasn't integrity, as a country. They all wanted to do what they wanted. The teachers were not very educated during the war and after. They were there for one reason — to get paid.
Q: You're on the soccer team. You mentor middle school students. And you also started a club that helps students with a variety of needs.
A: It was my dream to do it — from the beginning of my life I would say, because I always wanted to help people and help them feel better. . We have food supplies, clothes, shoes or anything that they need, even supplies for school events (and sports). What I have, I give it away to people. I get donations from students also, and there's other people who help the club. My teachers are involved in getting donations from other people.
Q: Do you think yet about what you might want to do after high school?
A: Of course. We have to think about it every once in a while. If we think about it too much we'll get tired. For me, I want to study business. I see myself in a position to be in business management. . I want to finish my education here and get my degree from this country. And then I will have a long time to do what I want to do.
Q: Do you have any mentors or people who inspire you?
A: My best friend. I learn from him a lot, and he's taught me a lot about life and education. I am so glad to be his friend. He lives in Australia. We met in Turkey. We keep in touch through the internet.
Q: What have you learned about life through your experiences?
A: Patience is the major part in life. We can't get what we want immediately. It takes time. We will learn to appreciate it when we get what we need.