‘Excited to be here:’ Refugees celebrate the holidays in Milwaukee

International holiday party at Neighborhood House of Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- Celebrating the holidays in a foreign place isn't always easy. That's why one Milwaukee organization is helping refugees feel right at home this Christmas.

"They're really excited to be here," said Jennifer Zuperku, International Learning Program teacher.

On Thursday, Dec. 20, Christmas came early at the Neighborhood House of Milwaukee, where students from around the globe -- "Burma, Thailand, Somalia, Sudan" -- shared what they've accomplished.

International holiday party at Neighborhood House of Milwaukee

Dylan Gast

"Through learning English, computer skills, citizenship, and this is sort of our big conglomerate here to celebrate," said Dylan Gast, International Learning Program workforce coordinator.

Each year, hundreds of refugees complete the International Learning Program.

"I'm from Somalia," said Nimo Sid, International Learning Program student.

International holiday party at Neighborhood House of Milwaukee

International holiday party at Neighborhood House of Milwaukee

International holiday party at Neighborhood House of Milwaukee

Students are working toward learning English, obtaining citizenship and preparing for the workforce. On Thursday, however, their notebooks and pens were set aside, and the focus was turned to spreading holiday cheer for all to hear.

"The party's today... I like it!" said Sid.

Classes of all ages performed for their family members and teachers before unwrapping presents... and food.

Jennifer Zuperku

"Each class put together a performance to either sing a song, to do a dance -- generally within our American culture," said Gast.

"So proud. They're amazing. They work so hard," said Zuperku. "It's the best job I've ever had."

The Neighborhood House of Milwaukee also provides early childhood services, after-school care and financial literacy courses. To learn more about the organization, CLICK HERE.

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