Persevering through the heat

Junior talks about his journey to a safer country


Junior Tamer Alsalloum remembers walking in the desert for eight hours, along with multiple families, to escape Damascus for the second time due to the unsafe environment.

“It was really tough carrying your stuff and walking eight hours,” Alsalloum said.

He was 5 years old when the civil war began in his country, Syria. He and his family were on vacation when they heard about the clashes between the Rebel groups Free Syrian Army and Syrian Arab Republic. They then decided to move to the Capital city of Damascus, where it was considered safer due to being under protection of the government. 

But while he was at school, a large mass shooting occurred nearby. He felt like they were not prepared for this situation to happen.

“I did not come to school after that because me and my family did not feel safe to go back to school,’’ Alsalloum said. 

During first grade, his family decided to leave Dasmascus and go to Jordan. Their first attempt to leave the country was unsuccessful because the taxi that they ordered broke down midway into the trip. 

(left) Junior Tamer Alsalloum, his brothers and father visit the Roman Theatre in 2015. (Contributed by Tamer Alsalloum)

As soon as they arrived in Jordan, refugee outreach programs got them settled in with jobs and a rental house. 

Although his family now lived in a more secure place, they wanted to emigrate out of the Middle East and go to the West. His family still kept in touch with many organizations and applied to leave Jordan. 

That dream finally came true in August of 2016 at a mosque during the Friday congregational prayers, when the organization called and said they had been approved to move to the U.S. 

“I was like, ‘Yeah let’s go get that education, safety, brighter life and something new,’’’ Alsalloum said. 

In about a month, he landed on U.S. soil and remembers leaving the airport in the early hours of the morning. Him and his family were set up with a home the same day. 

Everything was new for them such as the language and the area of their new home. He remembers not walking around the apartment complex at first because he did not want to get lost. Alsalloum only knew the direction of how to get to his mailbox and back. 

But with determination, he was able to learn English fairly quickly. His EL teacher in 5th grade, Sarah Lapiste, recalls him being a bright student who was always helpful to others. 

A couple of times during the day, Alsalloum would come down to her classroom for help on assignments and to transition into his new school. Lapiste remembers teaching him how to use a chromebook because she grabbed his hand to teach him to type a capital letter. By the end of the school year, his typing improved as if he had been typing all of his life. 

Just like how Alsalloum was able to improve his typing, he was able to speak English more fluently. If there was another Arabic speaking student having a hard time, he would console them. Alsalloum taught Lapiste some Arabic phrases in order to help her with her job when it came to speaking with Arabs. 

 ’’Then he’d tell me, ’You’re Arabic now!’ and point at me,’’ Lapiste said

Alsalloum was very happy that he was living in the U.S. and remembers writing “I love America’’ at the bottom of every assignment. Lapiste says this happiness has stuck with her. 

It was the sweetest thing,” Lapiste said. “He was just so happy to be here and to have the opportunity to learn.’’ 

Six years later, Alsalloum lives about 6,000 miles away from his homeland but manages to keep his culture alive by hanging out with others in the Syrian community. 

He hopes that one day Syria will have peace and will visit his country. 

“ I want to explore the Arab world because we didn’t have the chance to expand my knowledge on Arab cultures.’’ Allsalloum said.