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Syrian Refugee Students Say Attending School Is A Miracle

CHICAGO (CBS) -- For a lot of students in the Chicago area, going back to school is a big bummer; but for some, it is almost a miracle.

For local Syrian refugee students heading back to school, it's a chance to escape the violence of their Syrian homes and start fresh.

CBS 2's Dana Kozlov reports Yazan Abed is doing her homework ahead of time, attempting to get a head start on 8th grade before school starts on Tuesday.

Education is something the 14-year-old Syrian refugee doesn't take for granted after living years without it before settling in Chicago.

"[Back to school] means learning more,"Yazan said.

Syrian community network staffers say the Abeds are one of 220 refugee families currently in the area. Most members, more than 600, are children like Yazan, working to assimilate while trying not to dwell on their past experiences.

For 12-year-old Abdelhamid Omarein left behind family in Syria, saying he thinks about them a lot.

Syrian Community Network Youth Coordinator Salam Abdulrazzk said, "Those children do remember even though they were so little."

Abdulrzaak says for years, several Syrian refugee families would come into Chicago every month, but since President Trump's election, that number has plummeted to just a few families per year.

"War doesn't fully leave anybody. So I think that's why it's so important to make sure they're doing okay on a long term basis," said Melanie Mantenieks, a volunteer who has spent the past five years working with the community, tutoring and raising money for school backpacks.

"They're excited to go to school for the very opportunity of being able to go to school. It's a big deal," said Montenieks.

"Now I have a lot of good friends, my teachers are good," said Abdelhamid Omarein, saying his goal is to help his family live a better life.

There are renewed concerns out of Syria Thursday about the possibility of more chemical attacks. That is on the minds of many Syrian refugees who say they are grateful to be in Chicago.

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