Ekhlas Ahmed, a refugee from Darfur, Sudan, didn’t speak any English when she first arrived in the United States. Because of this, she got off at the wrong bus stop on her first day of school and spent eight dreadful hours lost and wondering around.
The experience left her determined to learn English, and she did so, studying hard not only in school but at home, where she watched the Ellen DeGeneres show and painstakingly copied and wrote down words that Ellen would use during the show. Eventually, she was able not only to learn English but to become a grad school student, and she is now teaching English, the very language she worked so hard to learn, in Maine, spending her free time helping other multilingual students to prepare for college.
Ahmed then wrote a letter to Ellen thanking her for helping her to learn English, and Ellen was so touched by the story that she invited Ahmed on the show and presented her with a check for $22,000 to pay off her student loans.
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“Every once in a while a story finds its way to me that puts everything in perspective,” she said, later adding, “Your story is so inspiring.”
Ellen then sat down with Ahmed to talk about her amazing life story as well as her current work teaching.
“You love teaching because you realize how important it is,” Ellen said.
“It is!” Ahmed said. “It is so important for me to be there for the students and for me to be a role model for them, because when I was their age, I didn’t have someone that was an immigrant from Africa, an immigrant who went through college and graduated, and didn’t speak English but now is in a classroom in front of them, so I wanted to give them that.”