Noor’s Long Journey to High School Graduation

By Shaunessy Jones, Director of Community Engagement

Noor is an incredible young man—one who embodies perseverance, hope and resiliency.

Originally from Myanmar, which is a country between Bangladesh and Thailand, he is Rohingya (Muslim). In Myanmar, the government does not recognize his people as an official ethnicity. That means they cannot apply for citizenship in their own country. There are very few laws that protect them, and no schools for them to attend.

When Noor was 8, his father had to flee the country to save his own life. So as the oldest son, Noor had to start working as a farmer to support his family. He remembers that he didn’t have shoes until he was 14 and only took showers with soap every 6 months. He often would get robbed on his way home from work.

His mom decided it wasn’t safe for him and put him on a boat to Indonesia. Can you imagine putting your young son on a boat alone hoping he could have a better life? Can you imagine being that kid who had already been forced to live a grown-up life being all alone on that boat packed with 1,000 other people, only given a bowl of rice and two cups a water a day to survive? It was months of beatings and starvation and complete terror.

Then one day, the captains abandoned ship, and they floated there with no way of getting to shore. Other boats were afraid to help them, fearing they were captained by pirates. When they were finally rescued, Noor spent 20 days in the hospital recovering from the ordeal.

At the refugee camp, he learned English. Actually, it’s more accurate to say he devoured the English language. He was the first in his class to learn it, and within six months, he learned Bahasa (an Indonesian language) and English simultaneously. He became an interpreter at the camp, going back and forth between classes, the hospital and around the camp translating for the International Organization of Migration.

When Noor finally got word that he was going to be flown to America to start a new life, the staff at IOM told him: “If we could create a good person, we couldn’t create someone as good as you. We will miss you forever and good luck in your future.” He is moved to tears every time he recounts this moment.

Unfortunately, America did not welcome him with open arms. He arrived in Spokane and faced a series of really difficult setbacks.

Thankfully, he got connected to Treehouse and a local couple heard through their church about a young man in need of temporary shelter. Bethanne and Larry opened their home and their hearts to Noor. Six months later, they asked him if he would like to stay while he finished high school. He was so relieved and so appreciative. He could finally breathe easy knowing he had a secure place to finish out his schooling.

Noor is humble and a hard worker. He diligently worked at a fast food place until the pandemic hit, saving enough money to buy his own car. Treehouse’s Driver’s Assistance program worked with him to get his license. An avid soccer player, our Just-in-Time Funding program supported his participation and paid for his gear.

He has been working with his Treehouse Graduation Success Coordinator, Julie Hipp, for the past two years. She is one of his biggest fans and champions. Julie works with many youth experiencing foster care at Noor’s school. They used to excitedly call her day on campus “Julie Day” as a testament to the positive impact she has had on them.

Noor recently graduated high school—a long held goal finally achieved! The first in his family to graduate, he was so proud to wear his cap and gown even if the traditional ceremony was cancelled.

He was accepted to his first choice college, Whitworth University in Spokane, where he will study History. Noor was awarded the Act Six Scholarship, a competitive leadership scholarship only awarded to six recipients a year.

He is eager to seize every opportunity to make his dreams of getting a college degree and returning to Bangladesh to share his story of hope and speak up for those who do not have a voice. Noor will, no doubt, make an indelible mark on the world.

Watch Noor tell his story in his own words in this video from our Graduation Spotlight event:

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About the Author

Shaunessy Jones is the Director of Community Engagement at Treehouse. In her role, she leads a team that connects the community to the mission through volunteering, hosting donation drives, fundraising and cultivation events, and outreach. She coaches youth to authentically share their personal stories of resilience and is the staff liaison to the Treehouse Ambassador Board, a group who raise awareness and funds on behalf of Treehouse.

Comment (1)

Mariah Bettise, ProbablyMonsters Chief Giving Officer

July 9, 2020

Noor, thank you for sharing your personal journey during the Treehouse Virtual Graduation. You are an absolute inspiration and the embodiment of resilience, perseverance, hard work and dedication. All the best to you in your future endeavors! Have an amazing time at Whitworth.


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