Foreign-born students learn about JFK's assassination for the first time


DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - John F. Kennedy's assassination feels more like recent history to some of the refugees in metro Atlanta who are here because of political violence in their home countries.

Channel 2's Jeff Dore took a peek in Maura Nicholson's American literature class at Druid Hills High School, and saw a cross section of the world, learning about John F. Kennedy.

To understand Kennedy's, "Ask not what your country can do for you," students need to understand the man and his times.

One in five DeKalb County students is foreign-born.

Maybe you remember President John F. Kennedy or your parents or grandparents have memories of him. In this class, though, a student might be more likely to have a family member know Haile Salassie.

The students are from Nepal, Russia, Eritrea, Sudan, Burma, Egypt -- places that know political turmoil. In studying Kennedy, they learn the expression, "what if?"

"What would have happened if that didn't happen? What could have happened?" Nicholson said.

One month before his death, Kennedy greeted Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopea, Dahneal Nadew's home country. Later, Selassie, too, was assassinated.

"Soldiers, they killed the emperor Haile Selassie and they took over the power, and a great terror start. They kill a lot of people," Nadew said.

They see parallels. They get, "what if?"

"And so when he was shot, that was very devastating for the country, because we had all these hopes in him that went away," Nicholson said.

Kennedy started America down roads he never got to travel.

"Kennedy decides to support the space program because in that time it was the Cold War, competition between Russia and the United States," Nadew said.

"When we commemorate somebody's loss like this, like Martin Luther King, we talk about in January, that there's a reason behind that, that those people are part of the history and part of the reason they're able to come to America and enjoy the education," Nicholson said.

Lessons of then, with shades of now.

The students in DeKalb County schools speak 135 languages in addition to learning English.

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