Syrian boy's graduation from Grade 8 class in Toronto

TheStar Toronto - Mohamad Saer Alashmooty celebrates with his Grade 8 class an event he could only dream of just 5 months ago, when he arrived in Canada as a refugee.

He’s here, yet still seems somewhat apart: the Syrian boy who had the bad luck to land in a tight-knit Canadian Grade 8 class during its final year — but the good fortune to have come to this country at all.

Five months after Mohamad Saer Alashmooty arrived in a wave of 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada, the 14-year-old sits alone, separated by language, as classmates grab selfies together before their graduation ceremony at Scarborough’s Military Trail Public School.

It can take time to truly belong.

But then classmate Rahim Saleem comes over and grabs his hand, “to come join in the fun,” he said. “We want him to take pictures with us and not feel lonely.”

So maybe it doesn’t take that long after all.

These are the up-and-down rhythms of becoming a Canadian when you have come from a war zone.

Like many young refugees, Mohamad Saer has had little schooling because of the civil war. He does not read or write in Arabic — he was last in school when he was just 8 — so he is in a special LEAP class (Literacy Enrichment Academic Program) for part of each day, for students with major gaps in their learning.