Cultural liaison supports English Learner students and their families during school closure



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First thing in the morning, any one of Noor Bulle’s students can expect a call from him.

Or more precisely, they can expect their parents to come barging into their room and hand them the phone so Bulle can remind them to get out of bed and ready for their virtual class sessions.

“When I call in the morning, they already know why I’m calling,” Bulle joked. 

As a multicultural liaison for the Burlington School District, Bulle supports students and families who speak Somali and Maay Maay, in which he is fluent, as they navigate the education system. Much of the job leans on Bulle’s and other liaisons’ established roles in their communities, serving as a “cultural broker” between the school and home. Bulle and his family have lived in Vermont since 2004, after leaving a refugee camp in Kenya, and have since formed community with relatives and other Somalis that call Burlington home.

“‘Some day I have a dream that I will be working at the high school as a teacher,'” Bulle remembered, recounting a speech he gave to a class of English Learner students after he graduated from Burlington High School in 2008. 

“I didn’t know at the time that I would be working as a liaison,” Bulle said. But when a job opportunity at the school opened up in 2015, he went for it, recognizing the need for Somali students and families in the area to pursue their education.

Coronavirus impacts Vermont students: 

These days, as households wrestle with the challenges of remote learning, Bulle routinely texts families through WhatsApp, offering everything from reminders to teens to keep up with their homework to advice for parents trying to navigate the state’s unemployment system.

“I’m very humbled,” said Bulle. “I love helping people, it makes me happy and the work is amazing.” 

Contact Ethan Bakuli at (802) 556-1804 or Follow him on Twitter @BakuliEthan.

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