[The following is testimony offered on January 31, 2012 on SB 706.]
Hello, my name is Yak Nak I’m very thankful and full of joy that I can be here today. It is a privilege I will never forget to be asked to address this committee and I will always cherish this responsibility.
I traveled here today from Holy Cross Catholic School located in Northeast Kansas City. To ask you to support the “Turner Fix” which is Senate Bill 706.
Holy Cross is in the most diverse part of our town filled with a wide variety of national origins and ethnic traditions. I feel we reflect the changing world. The United States of America is home for me and I am proud to celebrate freedom with my family; who have survived persecution on the most brutal level.
Today, my main goal is to speak about the major effect of Catholic schools in my family’s life, and also about the benefits of having a Catholic school in my community. My greatest hope is that more of our friends and neighbors can take advantage of my community’s Catholic school.
Originally my family lived in Wau, Sudan where my mother grew up. My mother started her education in a boarding school in Sudan but was forced to drop out because of the civil war in my country. My mother’s parents had perished in the war and she lived with her grandparents. My grandparents continued to be persecuted by Muslims because of their Christian beliefs. So, my mother moved to a less dangerous area to be raised by her aunt and uncle. She never was allowed to continue her education and lived in fear until she met my father and they married to start their family. The war expanded in the country and eventually they were forced to leave once and for all in order to save their children and themselves.
After years of brutal struggle we escaped to Cairo, Egypt. After three years in Egypt, my family moved to America where my two youngest brothers were born. We are a family of six children living in this country. The goal of our family is to achieve the highest possible education to help our country in the Sudan.
Even though it was a struggle for my family, my older brother and sisters were enrolled in Holy Cross School, because the reputation of the public schools in my area was not as good as my parents would have hoped. They knew there was no time to waste when dealing with young minds and education was more valuable than any money they could save.
My mother has always said and will say to this day, “Why did we make the sacrifice to send all of our children to the Catholic School?” Her reply is the same every time. “You will have the education I was unable to have. Education is what matters to us.”
There is only one way that you can reach the top and lead people and that is through an education. I believe only through a Catholic education can you reach these goals if you live in Northeast Kansas City, Missouri.
At Catholic schools they try to give students an edge, so one can survive at the next step of education whether it is high school or college. I am going to continue my Catholic education into high school, because of the success of my sister. My sister Madeline Nak attended Catholic schools for her entire life. She first started her roots in Holy Cross then moved on to Cristo Rey High School. The virtues, the character and education she learned in these schools were very life changing. For these very reasons she wanted to continue her Catholic education into college.
Now she is attending one of the best Catholic colleges in the United States. Madeline is a sophomore now, with a full academic scholarship to Creighton University. Everything that led her to this day was started off by the little things she learned for success and confidence in her Catholic schools.
Many do not have the opportunity to attend a Catholic school. Many parents feel the sacrifice is beyond their capacity to endure. There are so many reasons. We live in a high crime area and there is no free transportation for the students. School buses pass our homes as parents have to provide personal transportation for their students. Catholic school is more difficult and students must be responsible for their studies. Many parents are not able to help them and feel public school is easier and it is free. My question to them is, but is it worth it to spend your child’s valuable life if they are not learning. The main excuse that holds parents back from sending their kids to a Catholic school is that it is expensive and they cannot afford it. Some of my close friends do not attend a Catholic school and I can tell they do not have the foundation I have for their studies. It makes me sad for them, because I feel they may have no future.
I know the impact of a Catholic school in my life is very special - one of a kind. For this reason I wake up every morning to go to school, for this reason I work hard.
There are students in our Sudanese community who are enrolled in the local public schools and most do not want to go to school. Daily fights and frustrated teachers who are powerless to control the fighting and student conduct make school a dangerous and boring place; so they roam the streets with nothing to do.
Hope of a job is lost and further education impossible.
The foundations of education are not being fostered in many of these students. They do not speak English well and their skills are too low to allow them to qualify for the training necessary for high paying jobs. I wish they would have had the opportunity to go to my school. Holy Cross School is in the neighborhood and fighting does not happen there. The teachers and students love to learn and the atmosphere is never threatening. Safety is the rule for all and dignity is safeguarded no matter what country your parents are from.
The teachers know all of us. My mother is respected even though she does not speak English well yet. We are not required to be Roman Catholic; my family is Episcopal. We are all offered a free lunch and served breakfast each morning.
Our tradition for strong academics is in place and all of the teachers will work with anyone to make sure you are successful. There is no bullying, there is no fighting, everyone has what they need to succeed and I must say you have to work the hardest to be unsuccessful. Success is the business of Holy Cross School.
Thank you for allowing me to tell you about myself and my school. Please support Senate Bill #706 so more people will send their children to our accredited Catholic schools.