Around Rogers Park: Refugee High, by Elly Fishman

In 2017, Elly Fishman, a journalist with Chicago Magazine, spend a year at Sullivan High School to better understand the challenges, opportunities and dynamics of the city’s most diverse high school, and largest recipient of children of refugee families in Chicago. Her experience resulted in the publication of “Welcome to Refugee High” in June of that year.

Now, Ms. Fishman has turned that article into a full-length book which she has titled Refugee High: Coming of Age in America (New York: The New Press, August 10, 2021). It is a closer and more in-depth view of a small school making a big impact. Rogers Park remains the area of the city in which the largest number of refugees are resettled, and Sullivan remains the high school that many of the teen-age children of these refugees attend.

Chad Adams has been Principal of Sullivan for over a decade and continues to advocate for the needs of his incredibly diverse student population. Chad describes the book as “very uplifting and inspiring” and credits it for shining a light on the complex challenges these kids face, constantly code switching between the cultures of their parents and the countries they have left, and the culture of their new home in Rogers Park. Chad believes the biggest challenge and greatest reward for both himself and his staff is supporting these students as they work to keep their cultural identities while “also helping them navigate and integrate into Rogers Park, Chicago and the United States.” He also thanks RPBG for being such an ardent and consistent supporter of Sullivan and the important work that happens inside those walls.

This is truly one of the stand-out, good-news stories that has come out of Rogers Park in recent years. It feels all the more important right now when the very concept of living in a pluralistic society is being challenged. This book is a reminder that people of widely diverse backgrounds can come together and create something new. In many ways, this book reminds us that Sullivan High is a microcosm of what America has always been, and can still be.