Young girl who fled Afghanistan last summer wins first-grade award

It was a special day at Rea View Elementary in Union County
Every month, each class at Rea View chooses one student to receive the “Terrific Kid” award.
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 9:03 PM EDT
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UNION COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - It was a special day at Rea View Elementary in Union County. An arrow-shaped sign reading “Terrific Kid Ceremony” pointed parents down the hallway as they beamed with pride. They quickly filled up the cafeteria, and anxiously waited for the ceremony to begin.

“We are going to go ahead and start,” Principal Jennifer Parker said.

Every month, each class at Rea View chooses one student to receive the “Terrific Kid” award. And while all of the children picked in May were special, one fought harder than her classmates to be there.

“When you hear these wonderful things that teachers are saying about your kid, it’s pretty amazing,” Parker told the packed room.

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Back in October, Parker received a call alerting her about a new family who would be joining their school. When Muzhdah Rassoly walked into Rea View she didn’t speak a word of English and had never attended school.

Months earlier, Muzhdah’s family fled their homeland of Afghanistan right before the country fell to the Taliban. Her father, Johnny, spent years working as an interpreter for the U.S. Army.

He knew he had to get his wife and three daughters out of the country quickly.

“If I stay in Afghanistan, probably, the consequences are going to be different,” Johnny told WBTV. “Probably the Taliban, they kill me.”

The family ended up in Union County because of a soldier Johnny once worked alongside. And if you’re wondering, Johnny was the nickname given to him years ago by Americans. It’s stuck ever since then.

Principal Parker got to work enlisting school families to provide the necessities the Rassoly family lacked. Teachers were patient with Muzhdah as she acclimated to her new life in the United States.

“The first few days she was in our classroom she didn’t understand anything we were saying,” first-grade teacher, Sarah Wolley said. “But the last two or three months she’s been speaking in sentences.”

Wooley has watched Muzhdah flourish in her new home. But it’s hard for her not to think about how different the child’s life would be if she were still in Afghanistan.

“The transition that she’s gone through and everything she’s experienced, you wouldn’t know,” Wooley said.

Johnny beamed as Principal Parker called Muzhdah’s name. The little girl walked to the front of the cafeteria as the room clapped, a bright pink bow sitting on top of her head. Principal Parker listed her accomplishments, including her newfound ability to count to 100.

“Muzhdah you are an absolute joy. I hope you continue to grow and soar,” Parker said.

Yes, life certainly would be different if they’d never left their home.

“Right now, we see what’s going on in Afghanistan,” Johnny said. “Woman cannot go to school, women are not free.”

At Rea View, Muzhdah is just like any other American kid because that’s exactly what she is now. Except on this day, she’s a terrific one.

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