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Casco Bay High School Teacher Surprised On "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"

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    Sarah Norris

Casco Bay High School teacher (and 2009 graduate) Ekhlas Ahmed thought she was just attending a taping of "The Ellen Degeneres Show," until Degeneres invited her onstage. 

Ekhlas Ahmed arrived in Portland, Maine as a refugee from Sudan in 2005. During her first few years in the country, she supplemented her school study of English with self-directed efforts built around “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”; she’d watch, memorize, and transcribe Ellen’s words. 

She credits DeGeneres as a big part of her success--getting to and through college, and now studying for a Masters while she teaches students learning English at Casco Bay High School. 

Ahmed wrote to DeGeneres to thank her over a year ago, and again more recently to share her students’ beautiful work, a calendar celebrating their African home countries. 

She was invited to attend a taping, and had no idea DeGeneres would be reading her original letter out loud to the studio audience.  Ahmed also didn’t know that she would be invited onto the stage, or that she would be presented with a check for $22,000 to cover her student loan balance...but it all happened! Her shock and joy are evident and contagious in the video, available here

Ekhlas And Ellen2

In the clip, Ahmed speaks about her childhood in Sudan, her experience as a refugee at 12 years old, and her journey towards understanding what prompted her parents’ decision to leave their beautiful country. She acknowledges the move was confusing to her younger self, unaware of the genocide in Darfur.  ”But I know every parent wants safety, and they want the best for their kids.” 

Her father, a U.S. citizen since 2009, was recently detained for two days trying to travel to Sudan. Ahmed has been part of recent protests in Portland against the President’s immigration policies, noting that “when something is wrong, I always stand up for what is right.”

As a student at Casco Bay High School, Ahmed participated in the 11th grade Human Face of Human Rights expedition that celebrated the power of experiencing cultures first-hand, through direct relationships. Students documented the stories of their fellow students who were international refugees, including Ahmed, on film, in writing, and in photography.  Learn more about the expedition on Models of Excellence.

This project, including Ahmed’s story, is also part of our Illuminating Standards video series. The video features Casco Bay teacher Susan McCray, winner of the first Klingenstein Teaching Award in 2013. 

The Portland Press-Herald’s full article on Ahmed’s Ellen Show experience is available here