New faces and new places

Humans of West: Belize Irakoze


Luke Loving

Nothing is going to stop her. Irakoze is working hard in her class. Her favorite class she’s taken so far is Art class. “[My sister made me get into drawing] because I was drawing in my room and she was like ‘I like your drawings, you should actually start drawing’,” Irakoze said.

Luke Loving, Reporter

Moving to a completely new area is often difficult because you basically have to start over from scratch. You don’t know anyone and no one knows you. Now imagine moving to a new place AND trying to learn a new language. 

Belize Irakoze is a freshman at West who grew up in Tanzania and moved to Arizona when she was six years old. In 2015 she moved here and has been living here since then. 

“I would say [the biggest challenge I’ve had to face is] starting over, being new to a school, starting new things, and making new friends as well,” Irakoze said.

Moving from a different country has helped Irakoze become more diverse in communicating with people all over the world. She knows how to speak four different languages, but Swahili is still her favorite language. 

“My favorite memory [from Tanzania] was when I used to go to this place where the sand was white and it was so pretty,” Irakoze said.

“When I was young, I would just spend time with my friends and I would just stay there and they’d teach me how to speak Swahili. Nobody could understand it when we talked to each other besides us,” Irakoze said. 

Irakoze learned how to speak English when she moved to the U.S. She is currently an ELL (English Language Learner) at West, but could possibly exit the ELL status later in high school. Jessica Romaniello is an ESL teacher at West and has had the privilege of getting to know Irakoze.

“[Irakoze] struck me from the first as always being very hard working and conscientious. Now that I know her a little bit better, I get to see some of her fun personality when she talks a little more and she gets excited about things, and I enjoy seeing her come out of her shell,” Romaniello said.

The ESL program helps students in high school whose first language may not be English. ELLs are decided based on a series of assessments that is given to students whose number one language spoken at home with their family isn’t English. The tests assess the students’ English language skills and are placed in different levels of ESL classes based on their language proficiency. Erin Soedt is a counselor at West who is involved with ELLs.

“I think the main goal of [the ESL program] is to help our English Language Learners learn enough English and become proficient in the language so they can be successful here in the United States, to go on to bigger and better things after high school like college or into the workforce and have the language skills to be successful,” Soedt said.

The ESL program has helped many students succeed during and after high school, and Irakoze is looking to be the next. She has big dreams for her future.

“I want to graduate high school then move to China and then go to a university in China,” Irakoze said.

Irakoze’s dreams are definitely possible with her work ethic. She has already seen so many different cultures throughout her youthful life, and she still wants to see more. She has met numerous new faces and will no doubt meet many more on her journey through life.