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From South Africa, JHS junior Jojo Spio’s journey has been unique
story by Tomi Clark & Greta Reel
In a society where prejudices and discriminations still exist, it makes it tougher and tougher for immigrants to live peacefully without being labeled as different. Coming from across the world, from a different culture, and from a different society is difficult, but not impossible — and 16-year-old Jojo Spio has proved that.
A junior at Jeffersonville High School, Spio excels in his classes, and though he appears shy, he is quite the opposite. However, Spio does not have a typical backstory, as he immigrated from South Africa when he was eight years old.
Adjusting to life in America isn’t easy for most immigrants, illegal or not, and Spio can identify with those hardships.
“Getting used to living in the U.S. was a challenge at first, and it took me months to adjust to certain customs and social norms. At first I didn’t really fit in because of how I dressed or the way I talked but over time, as people got to know me, I was able to assimilate to American culture. I was able to make new friends and feel welcome,” Spio said.
Spio’s family initially wanted to move to New York City, but instead they chose to move to the friendly and small city of Jeffersonville because they had a family friend living there.
Since then, Spio has adjusted to living in the U.S. and became a U.S. citizen in eighth grade when his parents completed the citizenship test. Spio is involved in numerous clubs and organizations at Jeff High, including class officers, student council, and National Honor Society. He has an exceptional G.P.A., and friends and teachers know him as owning a charismatic and amiable personality.
“He is an outstanding young man, both as a student as well as an asset to our school. He is very friendly and helpful to those around him,” AB Calculus teacher Shadd Clarke said. “He acts a leader in many ways, such as leading impact activities, student council, and acting as an Academy Ambassador for our corporation.”
Given his past and the extracurriculars he’s involved in, it should come as no surprise that Spio is politically involved and is passionate about politics and social issues.
“I’ve known Jojo since middle school and he’s always been extremely passionate about social and political issues, but also passionate in every other aspect possible,” said Kate Stinson, a close friend of Spio.
Spio is a fervent Democrat and was a strong advocate of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. When Donald Trump won the presidency and took office, hostility toward immigrants increased considerably. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children, is in peril of being cancelled by Trump. Spio sympathizes with those immigrants, given his own background.
“Coming from a foreign country has widened my perspective in terms of immigration type policies,” Spio said. “Being an immigrant, I can sympathize with those wanting to become American citizens or those wanting to live in this country and live the American dream…DACA recipients are our teachers, students, leaders, doctors. They have contributed to this country as much as anyone else,” he said.
Spio has plenty of light at the end of the tunnel and has enough dreams and aspirations to fill the entire galaxy. His motivation for a future and grades will carry him a long way, which proves that any immigrant can be successful in America and offer much to the country.
America has a long way to go when it comes to hatred and discrimination toward immigrants, but many forget that the country was built by immigrants. These immigrants came from different countries and different backgrounds, and made the country what it is today.
Spio is on track to be one of these people, and will make the country even better than it already is.