Equity & Diversity

Refugee ‘Little Bill Clinton’ Shines on the Soccer Field

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 23, 2010 1 min read
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Bill Clinton Hadam has probably had more written about him in an American newspaper than any other refugee boy living in this country.

Journalist Mary Wiltenburg wrote a yearlong series about the boy’s adjustment from a refugee camp in Tanzania to school in Atlanta, Ga., that was published in the Christian Science Monitor in 2009. The series about a boy who had been named after former President Bill Clinton was called “Little Bill Clinton: A School Year in the Life of a New American,” and won 1st prize in the multimedia category for 2009 from the Education Writers Association.

This week, The Christian Science Monitor published an update on Little Bill Clinton’s life. He was one of 40 players his age to be selected for Georgia’s statewide Olympic Development Team, a training program from which future U.S. Olympic and World Cup teams will primarily be selected.

Wiltenburg reports how Little Bill Clinton’s passion for soccer began when he was still living in the Tanzanian refugee camp, playing with balls he made himself from plastic bags and twine. After he came to the United States, he joined a school soccer team, where a parent recognized his talent and convinced a local YMCA to finance the boy’s participation on its soccer team. Others have stepped in to ensure that the boy, now 11, had what he needed to fully participate in the Y team, such as gear and transportation to practices and games.

What strikes me about this tale is about how the support provided to immigrant or refugee children in school can make a huge difference in the future prospects for the newcomers.

I’m wondering where Little Bill Clinton would be in developing his soccer talent, for instance, if the parent who directed the school soccer program that the boy initially joined hadn’t shown an interest in his potential.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.