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School wasn’t easy for Amina Goth, who came to Lemon Grove from Ethiopia as a teenager in 2006 with her mother and 11 siblings. She learned English while watching cartoons as she took care of her younger brothers, and she didn’t enjoy taking classes.

Amina Goth is one of the LION program’s graduates. She still uses the program to get advice on school and work. Goth also drives her siblings and other members to LION during the week.
Amina Goth is one of the LION program’s graduates. She still uses the program to get advice on school and work. Goth also drives her siblings and other members to LION during the week.

Then she found a way forward with the help of the LION Club at Somali Family Service, a program designed for young refugees like her in the San Diego neighborhood of City Heights and the city of Lemon Grove.

“I didn’t know anybody at school and my English was kind of broken,” Goth said. “Some of the people who I went to school with also went to LION. I got to know some of the people that were a part of the program.”

Goth was able to meet other teen refugees at her high school that she could relate to through the program that made school more enjoyable.

The program provides one-on-one tutoring for East African refugee high-school students and helps them develop leadership skills. The participants, aged 13-18, go on field trips, attend college fairs and volunteer for community service. They meet at least once a week at the Somali Family Service facility to check in with their respective mentors and attend workshops about leadership.

LION takes college-bound students to UC San Diego.

“Now I pay attention and participate in class,” says Fadumo Farah, a Somali refugee sophomore at Helix Charter High School who’s been taking part in the LION program with her brother for two years. She says the program has made school seem like less of a chore.

Goth, a sophomore at San Diego City College who just passed her American citizenship test in October, continues to use the LION program to practice her interviewing skills and to make connections to boost her career prospects.

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Learn about volunteer opportunities  by emailing Farah Hussein at You can also ask her about how to donate to the LION program.

Her goal is to become a pediatrician, a job she considers ideal because she grew up taking care of her younger siblings. With the help of Somali Family Service, she was able to build a connection with a local nursing program that will help her enter the medical field.

Goth is just one example of the many adolescent refugees that have graduated the program. Overall, the LION program has helped 90 percent of its 1,000 student participants attend college. The program’s goal is to continue to help students graduate high school.

LION mentors don’t see their job ending there though. They continue to help students in college. “Whatever help they need from us, we still provide it. We still keep checking with them on a regular basis,” says Ghazia Hassan, a LION program mentor and case manager. “We can advise them and connect them to resources.”

There are many ways to help LION program members and Somali Family Service.

You can volunteer, donate money or offer resources to the LION program. The program is always looking for scholarships, speakers, funders, or internship opportunities for the students. If you want to help in any way, email Farah Hussein at

Learn more about Somali Family Service’s sponsor, SDG&E.

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