Student Spotlight: Josiah Corbus

Reflections from the director of Cambridge After School Program: On the Trump Immigration Ban, Somali Heritage, & more

My name is Josiah Corbus, and I direct Cambridge After School Program, or “CASP,” as we call it. When the Trump administration released its travel ban in January, I immediately thought about our kids. Most of them are Muslim and come from families that immigrated here from Somalia. I thought of the hardship and anguish the ban was sure to cause our kids and their families. I thought also of the numerous kids with names all too familiar to me—Suleyman and Halima, Abdullahi and Ifrah—who would be turned away from our country’s shores.

But for each Somali kid who gets turned away because of our country’s policies, there is already a Somali-American kid right here, living in Cambridge. Some of these kids are enrolled in our program. Every week, I revel in the time I get to spend with Suleyman, Halima, and the 25 others entrusted to our care. Above all, they are kids—hardworking, kind kids. They also happen to be kids whose president considers them alien and who, like many other children from underserved communities, are faced with a shortage of parental attention, academic support, and enrichment.

This spring, my fellow directors and I, along with our 50 or so superb volunteers, have rededicated ourselves to supporting them. One way that we have done this is by celebrating Somali heritage and Somali-American culture in our curriculum. We have also made a recruiting push for volunteers that has allowed us to add additional kids off our waitlist. In everything that we do, we treat the kids with love and support that we hope will counteract the xenophobic hatred they are sure to encounter elsewhere. And by providing a full slate of academic enrichment, we help equip them where the education system has fallen short.

Every day that I go to program, the kids fill me with hope. Cambridge is their home, as much as it is anyone else’s, and their sense of belonging is unshakable. Additionally, when I see them working on an engineering project or giving a civics presentation, their hard work and accomplishments awe me.

I am convinced that a kid with a hunger for learning and the resources to satiate that hunger can overcome a whole lot. At Cambridge After School Program, we do all that we can to support our kids in a time when they have much to overcome.