TWIN FALLS — Imanol Jimenez was scared when he arrived at Canyon Ridge High School.
“When I came here, I couldn’t speak English,” the 17-year-old said. After moving from Mexico, it was a big adjustment starting at a new school in a new country. “I feel like everyone is a little scared when they start.”
But just two-and-a-half years later, Imanol is president of Canyon Ridge High’s diversity club. And after he graduates, he wants to go to college to study anthropology.
He was among more than a dozen international and refugee students who shared their culture during Canyon Ridge’s yearly “International Week.” Festivities this week included a lunch, soccer tournament and talent show.
The event everyone was waiting for was Friday — a “taste of the world” lunch, Imanol said, where students served traditional food from their home countries while wearing traditional attire.
Imanol said he wondered how the event would be perceived by others at the school.
“Others who weren’t from foreign lands were pretty interested in it,” he said.
At Canyon Ridge, though, diversity is a part of everyday life. The school is home to the Twin Falls School District‘s high school refugee students. In total, 22 countries are represented among the student body, along with 28 languages — the top five of which are Arabic, Spanish, Nepali, Swahili and Tigrinya.
Meet three of Canyon Ridge’s international students:
Tertil Abubaker, 19
Tertil is Eritrean and was born in Sudan. She has been in the United States for three years and when she arrived at Canyon Ridge, “it was kind of scary at first,” she said, because of the language barrier. But she got plugged in with the school’s diversity club. “We’re all like from different countries,” she said.
For International Week, she prepared food for her classmates and school employees. “We served the whole school,” she said.
One difference she has noticed at school here in Twin Falls is the teaching style. At her old school, teachers would come up to the front of the room and lead a lesson, but there wasn’t individualized help for students.
“Here, you can stay after school and they’ll help you,” she said.
Tertil said she loves math, and after she graduates from high school, she wants to go to the College of Southern Idaho. Her ultimate goal is to become a physician assistant.
Mohamed Eidway, 17
Mohamed, who’s Sudanese, and came to the United States in 2015 — his freshman year of high school. He arrived with no English language skills. Now, he’s a high school junior.
In his country of origin, there was more fighting and it’s dangerous, he said. “Here, it’s kind of safer than over there.”
Mohamed said his favorite part about being at Canyon Ridge High is competing in sports. He plays soccer — his favorite sport — and is also on the track and cross country teams. When he’s not at school, he works at Johnny Carino’s Italian restaurant.
He hopes to go to college and earn a soccer scholarship.
Imanol Jimenez, 17
Imanol was born in Lodi, Calif., but his family moved to Mexico when he was young and he was raised there. Two-and-a-half years ago, his family moved back to the United States.
Compared with schools he attended in Mexico, at Canyon Ridge High “everything is different — the building, the way the school looks,” he said. “It’s a pretty diverse school.”
Despite being scared when he started at Canyon Ridge, Imanol said his teachers are “pretty amazing people” who are open minded and supportive.
He has picked up the English language quickly and now, he’s learning French. “I’m really into foreign languages,” he said.
After Imanol graduates, he hopes to study anthropology in college.