“I came with the first group—me and mom and dad,” says Anwar. “We came on August 18, 1973.” Mohamad and two other brothers joined them the following March. When Said and the final group arrived on July 4, 1974, all eleven family members were reunited—this time in a townhouse at Forest Hills co-op on Ellsworth.
“The culture was different here, and life was completely different,” Mohamad recalls. “We had to adjust, to understand the culture, and to make sure we were living, working, and going to school. From day one, the whole family worked as a team.”
“We came here to Ann Arbor because of the schools,” Anwar adds. “This country is the land of opportunity. As long as you work hard and put your mind into it, nothing is impossible.”
The Issas put their minds into it. Within weeks of arriving, Anwar was going to college while teaching himself English. “I used to have four-by-five cards with words on them,” he remembers. “I learned fifteen words a day, and in six or seven months, I was pretty good. When I went to Washtenaw Community College, they asked how many years I’d been here and were surprised it’d only been a few weeks.”
They also worked hard. “Dad worked at odds-and-ends jobs when he first got here,” Said says.