If You Can’t Fly, Then Run

By Dr. Monica Lakhwani—Multicultural Specialist, Equity and Inclusion 

Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Division

One of the best things about being an educator is when you bump into one of your students after they have left you, and you learn of their success. What’s even more fantastic is if one of your students ends up working where you once taught them!

That’s exactly what happened with Ms. Juna Mangar! 

Ms. Mangar was born in a refugee camp in Jhapa, Nepal. She is the oldest child of parents who decided to come to the United States in 2008. During the 2008-09 school year, she attended Newcomer Academy (NCA). Today, she is employed by JCPS as a nurse for NCA! Catching up with Juna, she shares with readers her challenges, her experiences as a student, and her journey: 

I, along with a lot of immigrants who come to the United States, face a lot of challenges every day. These were my greatest challenges—the language, the food, and the culture. I only knew limited British English from studying in a refugee camp in Nepal. So I struggled to try to understand teachers and other people sometimes in the office, bank, and hospital setting when they spoke American English super-fast. 

The food here in America was very different. I was so used to eating spicy foods in Nepal, so pizza and sandwiches tasted kind of bland. So I would pack my own lunch for school, but after a few months I started to try American foods and now I like eating pizza, pasta, and sandwiches sometimes. The culture here was very different from Nepal. For example, in Nepal boys can wear anything that has pink without being judged. During that first fall season, my mother made my little brother wear my pink sweater and sent him to school. The other kids laughed at him in his elementary school. Later that day, his teacher told the other kids to be kind; we learned something new that day and we still are learning something new every day.   

It was interesting being a JCPS student because I had never ridden in a bus to go to school in Nepal. Plus having other international students at the Newcomer Academy made me more curious about people from different cultures and backgrounds. Overall, I had an amazing first school year in America through JCPS. I am so grateful for all my teachers and for the international friends that I made while attending Newcomer Academy. I remember being so nervous and even feeling nauseous while riding the bus to school. But when they used to stop in front of the school for the students to get off, a few of my teachers used to greet us by saying “Namaste” (“Hi” in Nepali), “Hola,” and other international greetings or by fist-bumping us. I learned to fist-bump because of Mr. Book while I attended Newcomer Academy. Even though it may seem a small act or a regular act of greeting for Americans, it made a huge impact on me and made me feel so welcomed to the school every day.  

When I was a little girl, I saw a lot of sick people in the refugee camp, so I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse and help people when I grew up. But since I was not a citizen of Nepal, attending college while being a refugee would have been impossible. Tragedy struck in our refugee camp in 2008, after all of our belongings were destroyed in a fire. We lived in the nearby jungle for more than three months and made the decision to come to America. In America, I took the responsibility of helping my parents and my younger brothers. While helping my parents take care of my middle brother Buddha’s asthma problems, I decided to be a nurse. 

With her love of meeting new people and learning about cultures, Ms. Mangar decided to work for JCPS. She sees it as an opportunity to be with students who are new to the United States and new to Louisville. Having been in the same shoes, she knows the challenges with language barriers and cultural unfamiliarity. Her hope is to have a positive impact on the students’ lives she serves.   


“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward” by Martin Luther King Jr. This quote is one of my life mottos that keeps me motivated, and I will continue to live like that in the future until I become old and bedbound. Anything is possible, so do not be discouraged and lose hope. Because if you don’t lose hope, then you will have the potential to become the person you have wished and dreamed of for all your life. 


Check out the third February edition of Envision Equity with amazing cover art by Central High School student Mackenzie Jones.

 Enjoy the 2nd of 3 Envision Equity eMags for the month of February.  This one highlights the legacy, love, & need for HBCUs

 Please enjoy the first of three Envision Equity magazines for the month of February!

 Happy Black History Month!

JCPS schools have several Black History Month events coming up! Please check out this booklet that contains some of the Black History Month events happening in our district!

Activist and educator W. E. B. DuBois said, “Education must not simply teach work—it must teach life.” You are here because you not only teach life, you also breathe life into many students. Thank you for doing what it is you do. I understand that there are many challenges, both personal and professional, that you face daily. I understand that you wake up every day with hopes to make a difference. Even when it seems as if you have not or are not making a difference, there is research to the contrary. Johns Hopkins University just published research that proved that your presence in the classroom and schoolhouse decreases the chances of [black] students dropping out by more than 30 percent. That research, as promising and telling as it is, is nothing new to you. You should know your worth. You know what you bring to this system, and you should know what would happen if we did not have you with our students daily. Even further, you should be proud of the fact that this celebration is unapologetically for you. This celebration is to simply thank you for the curriculum and pedagogy you bring with you. Thank you for the experiential eye and heart through which you evoke validation and hope. We understand that one of the main things that improves students’ outcomes are relationships. To that point, we also understand that relationships are hard to come by and to keep. Yet, many of you do this daily. Many of you are the surrogate mom, dad, and/or guardian for the students you work with. And that is not is in the job description. Nor is it written that you are expected to attend the events, games, family functions of your students; however, you do that as well. Often times, all of this is done without indemnity. You do it because it is also what education is. Teaching is more than just being certified, classified, and working in the schoolhouse. Real teaching happens when what you say, do, and deliver to the student makes the student better. When the student can connect to the lesson, share her or his thoughts and experiences, and have the autonomy to be themselves and seek to understand their current positionality in the world, all the while striving to be a contributive factor in society, you are educating. Thank you for being what you are, as means to show students what they are and can become. John D. Marshall, Ed.D Jefferson County Public Schools Chief Equity Officer