AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School welcomes 85 Ukrainian refugee students

Posted at 1:25 PM, Oct 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-06 18:28:31-04

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — In the last several months, the number of Ukrainian refugee students at the AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School in Southfield has more than quadrupled to 85. As students fill these halls, they’re embracing a new sense of culture and way of life, along with an education here.

7 Action News' Simon Shaykhet asked one of those students how it feels being a new student?

"When I first came to this school I was really nervous,” said Veronika Charuta, student, AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School.

In the weeks and months since Veronika Charuta left Ukraine to start a new life with family here in metro Detroit, she says the AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School in Southfield has given her a sense of support that’s hard to put into words.

“I make a lot of friends here. I like teachers and principal here. They are really friendly here,” said Charuta.

Her story is one of triumph over adversity, and she’s not alone.

Since our first visit here a couple months back when we showed you a handful of refugee students taken in, there’s been a large number of additional students enrolled, students like Artem Kharko.

We asked Artem how teachers have helped him transition into the new school?

"Some give us cards. You can pick one up and they’ll help you or talk slowly,” said Artem Kharko, student, AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School.

To accommodate growing demand, the school has hired additional staff. Teacher Talar Mccleary started a few weeks ago.

“At the beginning they are very shy. They don’t always understand us or us them. Once they get more comfortable, they open up more and come out of their shell,” said Talar McCleary, new teacher at AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School.

“Between the two schools we have 427 students,” said Hosep Torossian, high school principal, AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School.

Principal Hosep Torossian oversees the day-to-day work of educating students and inspiring them to achieve.

But, for him, there’s a harsh reality that this need goes beyond the school’s availability of resources.

When asked if there has ever been a point he's felt the school might be running out of space, Torossian replied, "We unfortunately ran out of space. Today, we received another call saying please take me. We are trying to shuffle around to create room. This will be the school’s legacy.”

A legacy to give students structure and a chance to pursue their dreams free of the dangers back home.

“They give them a sense of safety. The teachers are giving their time. Showing compassion,” said Sonia Kalfayan, middle school principal, AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School.

The school has also opened a state of the art STEAM center, short for science, technology, engineering, art and math.

Here, cutting edge tools provide another layer of support and opportunity for students to learn.

As for the future, Veronika is already thinking of helping more refugee students and showing them someone cares.

“I’ll try and help new students when they come to this school. I know they feel nervous and it’s different,” said Charuta.

The school is raising funds to organize field trips to Lansing and Washington D.C. for students.

If you’d like to donate to AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School, click this link.