Class of 2022: Ali Mastan Ali

From Afghanistan to Antioch: Ali Mastan Ali, Antioch High School
Posted on 05/11/2022
ali mastan ali

When Ali Mastan Ali arrived in the United States, he hadn’t seen or even been able to contact his father for about 10 years. portrait of ali mastan ali

Born in Afghanistan, Ali grew up there and in Pakistan. His family was stopped by the Taliban while traveling to Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, when Ali was 3 or 4, and his father and other men in their group were taken away.

Ali and the rest of his family did not get to speak to his father again until 2017 or 2018, when a surprise phone call left Ali speechless and crying tears of joy.

“I kept thanking God that they got our number and that he’s safer now,” Ali said.

When he was 7 or 8, Ali, his mother and his siblings moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where he learned new languages but found the heat and the food disagreeable. They came to the U.S. when he was in the seventh grade. Speaking no English, Ali enrolled at McMurray Middle School and then Apollo Middle before moving up to Antioch High School, from which he will graduate on May 22.

Ali participated in MNPS’s Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) program, learning English – his fourth or fifth language – within a year. Now 18, he works part-time in the district’s Office of English Learners through the Work-Based Learning program for MNPS high school students.

In that role, Ali translates for Afghan families who are new arrivals to the U.S., helping them register for programs and understand documents.

“I’ve been in the same situation as them,” he says.

He also helps his mother and siblings, frequently translating conversations with doctors and nurses, booking medical appointments and paying bills.

Meanwhile, the Office of English Learners is helping Ali get his driver’s license – and introducing him to Chick-fil-A, which has become his favorite restaurant. Once he’s able to drive, he’ll take other families to appointments, paying forward a kindness he benefited from not long ago.

Ali will go to school at Nashville State Community College for the next two years, and he plans to apply for U.S. citizenship. He also looks forward to seeing his father, who remains in Pakistan but is awaiting a visa that will allow him to travel here and be reunited with his family.

“I'm looking forward to seeing my dad soon, hopefully, and I'm excited about it,” Ali said. “It's been so long.”

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