When Keh Keh interprets she can truly empathize with those who do not speak English. She explains that she can see herself in them—that is, her sixteen-year-old self. It has now been eight years since Keh Keh arrived in the U.S. as a refugee from Burma without a word of English. Her case manager at IIA helped enroll her in an ESL class right away, where she prepared for the start of the school year at North High School. Despite the extra challenge of learning English, Keh Keh worked hard. By her junior year, she was inducted into the National Honors Society. As a senior, she was awarded a scholarship from IIA. Today, she is pursuing a degree in biochemistry with the ultimate dream of becoming a physician at Akron Children’s Hospital.
In addition to her collegiate pursuits, Keh Keh has put her language expertise to good use as an interpreter for IIA and elsewhere. She speaks three languages: her native Karen, as well as Burmese and English. She is clearly passionate about her job as an interpreter, her passion coming from a very personal place. When she realized that many Karen people were arriving in Akron, her heart told her to help her community. Keh Keh can be found interpreting during brain and heart surgeries, psychiatry appointments, immigration services, and elsewhere. The interpreter training conducted by IIA, a two-day session that takes place every year, has helped Keh Keh develop her skills. She hopes to remain at IIA to share her own knowledge with new interpreters and continue serving refugees. “I learn here and I get an education here, and I want to give things to other people who just come.”