Refugee honored as ‘Most Courageous Student’

Cing Lee Kim, an 18-year-old refugee from Myanmar who was resettled by Catholic Charities staff three years ago, won the “Most Courageous Student” award for her high school and was honored at the Camden County Board of Freeholders’ “Best of the Class 2017” award ceremony.

When Cing Lee Kim arrived in the United States, she was 15 years old. She barely spoke English. And she came here as a refugee, after she and her family were left with no choice but to flee their home country of Myanmar (Burma) due to government conflicts.

You’d think that these circumstances would wear heavily on even the most resilient of young minds.

Yet, three years later, Kim stood on stage to receive “The Most Courageous Student” award at the Scottish Rite Ballroom and Auditorium, Collingswod, as a round of applause erupted to honor her.

The award ceremony was presented by the Camden County Board of Freeholders, who held a “Best of the Class 2017” ceremony in which exemplary students were chosen and honored from every high school in Camden County.

“I was surprised to receive the award, but I’m honored!” Kim said with a smile.

A senior at Haddon Township High School, Kim has not only mastered English, but she will be attending Camden County College in the fall to pursue a degree in nursing.

When Kim and her family first arrived to the United States, Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement staff, which includes two Burmese refugees, immediately sprang into action. They picked the family up from the airport, helped them enroll in assistance programs, found housing for them, and assisted them with necessary medical treatment.

Priscilla Adams, a staff member of the Refugee Resettlement Program, was quick to praise Kim, as well as her family’s swift assimilation into the community. “She is so deserving of this award, and her family is wonderful. They have all learned English and have become just about entirely independent. They do a lot for other families, and [Kim’s father] is a pastor now, and he does a lot to stabilize the Burmese community. Sometimes they will reach out to us when it comes to help with understanding medical bills. But other than that, they are self-sufficient. That’s what we aim for.”

Kim explained, “At first, I had mixed feelings about coming here. But now, I feel settled. I’m happy here, and I am beyond grateful for all that Catholic Charities has done for my family, and for me.”

Kim is one of some 100 refugees that Catholic Charities resettles each year, as the agency responds to Jesus’ call to welcome and embrace the stranger. The Office of Refugee Resettlement Services helps to ease the human suffering of people fleeing the horrors of war and persecution from war-torn and post-conflict regions of the world. The agency helps these newcomers establish new homes, jobs and a new life here in South Jersey, while working to bring them to self-sufficiency.

To learn more about Refugee Resettlement services, visit: