Aadan's Story


For 130 years, SouthSide Early Childhood Center has been committed to serving children from St. Louis’s most at-risk families, including many from the city’s ever-changing refugee population. A decade ago, SouthSide served a number of children from Bosnia. Today, African refugees make up 15% of our population. Regardless of their nationality, these families are united by their determination that their children will have a better life than the one they left behind.

A year before he was born, Aadan’s family fled starvation and civil unrest in Somalia for the United States. Along with his family, Aadan faced severe social and cultural isolation, linguistic barriers and the fears of an unfamiliar environment. His world consisted of the inside of his family’s small south city apartment.

Aadan was two when he was enrolled at SouthSide. He relied entirely on others to feed him, couldn’t

communicate with his teachers and didn’t play with other children. Aadan’s teachers, working with SouthSide’s Developmental Specialist and Program Director, crafted a plan to address these challenges. A translator was located to help communicate with his parents. His teachers gently encouraged him to become more independent within the security of classroom routines. The Family Partnership Manager invited his family to share their customs in the classroom and parent meetings, offering them opportunities to celebrate their home culture while embracing their new one.

Today Aadan plays with his classmates, responds to his teachers and even feeds himself at lunch! With a network of support at SouthSide, Aadan will continue to develop and will succeed in kindergarten and beyond.