ATLANTA—With her eyes on the horizon, senior Siang Zaem (B.S.W., ’21) is completing her final semester at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and preparing to begin her graduate studies, where she will learn how to develop child maltreatment prevention models for immigrant and refugee children.
Zaem wants to develop a culturally appropriate child maltreatment prevention model for the Myanmar refugee population. Having endured a difficult transition from Myanmar and Malaysia to the United States, she sees the importance in constructing an assistance program that will create a safe and healthy transition process for these children.
“A lot of children in afterschool programs here have a hard time transitioning,” she said. “Some start in elementary school, but some start in middle and high school and it can be harder for them to fit into their new environment.”
Zaem resettled in Atlanta with her two sisters. Afterward she earned her General Education Diploma (GED), and they welcomed their parents to Atlanta.
Zaem felt an urge to pursue higher education following an incident as a retail sales associate that left her with a reduced pay and little respect. Her confirmation to pursue this dream came from her father, who shortly after moving to Atlanta received a late-stage cancer diagnosis that proved untreatable.
“He always told me, ‘Just get a degree. We’re already here—you’re already here, and you’re going through so much at work. When you go to school, go for something you are passionate about.’ After he passed away, I talked with my family and told them I wanted to pursue social work.”
Zaem enrolled in Georgia State University Perimeter College in 2017 and embarked on a four-year journey that led her to where she is now—at the Atlanta campus, wrapping up her time in the Department of Social Work’s field education program as a refugee resettlement intern at New American Pathways in DeKalb County and receiving her bachelor’s degree.
Next, Zaem will begin courses this summer as an advanced standing candidate for an M.S.W. from the University of Georgia.
“I hope that more social workers and refugee resettlement organizations will place greater interest in assisting change for Myanmar populations,” she said. “I have hope for the future.”
Story by Victoria Bowden, M.P.P. Candidate