For over 17 years, the Delics have been a part of the Affton School District family. Uprooted from their home following the war in Bosnia, their path wasn’t straight but it was a path that led them to find a new home.
Selim works in Maintenance for Affton School District, his wife Suvada is Head Cook for Chartwells at Affton High School, and their daughter Selma, a 2007 graduate of Affton High School, is a kindergarten teacher at Mesnier Primary.
The Delics were established as a young family when the war broke out in Bosnia. Selim and Suvada were married only a few years, and Selma wasn’t yet three years old, but after their home was burned, they moved to stay with family in Yugoslavia and Croatia before eventually settling in a refugee camp in Germany.
“We couldn’t stay in Germany since we were refugees. But I heard from my cousin who had settled in St. Louis,” said Selim. “We were thinking of either Australia or America, but once we found my cousin, St. Louis is where we wanted to go.”
The family moved to an apartment in Affton in August 1999 through the International Institute. Just a few days after arriving, Selma began fifth grade at Gotsch Intermediate School but spoke no English.
“Selma came home crying that first day of school,” remembers Suvada. “But after three months, she was doing her homework on her own. I told her, ‘I can’t really help you.’ She was already speaking and reading English so well.”
Right away, both Selim and Suvada were employed in a factory, but even their young daughter could see how much the couple didn’t like what they were doing.
“Actually, we have a really good education in Bosnia and good jobs, but we lost everything. Then we start a life in Germany and lost everything again. Here we came doing factory work,” said Suvada. “In Bosnia, I was a fashion designer, and Selim was a machine technician. He wanted to become an engineer.”
Added Selim, “We were struggling. The $5.50 per hour job was not for us, we wanted more. Actually, we have to thank Selma for our jobs with the district.”
“My parents hated their jobs, and I could sense even at that age that they were super miserable. I mentioned it to my ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, and she told me about openings at Affton School District, and they applied.”
Suvada began working in food service at Affton High School in October 1999; Selim began in maintenance with Affton School District the next month. Six months later, they bought a house in Affton and they haven’t looked back since.
“We love Affton,” said Suvada. “For some reason, I don’t know, it’s just feels like home.”
Selma continued her education in Affton and graduated in 2007. From there, she attended Southeast Missouri State University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education, with certifications in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education, and then Baker University in Kansas City where she earned a Master of Arts in Education, with concentrations in Technology, Multi-Cultural Classrooms and Student Diversity, and Curriculum and Instruction. She taught second grade for two years at North Kansas City, before she returned to her alma mater to teach kindergarten in 2013.
Remembers Suvada, “From the time she was young, Selma has always said, ‘I want to help the kids that don’t understand English. This is so hard, and I want to help them.’ We are so proud of her being a teacher.”
“It’s so nice to work in a diverse area because of that,” adds Selma. “There are kiddos that are newly moved here and have a huge language barrier.”
She credits her fifth grade teacher, Mary Beth Graefe (now a counselor at Rogers Middle School) with helping her want to be a teacher: “She holds a dear place in my heart, I love her. She was extremely inclusive and she saw my potential and pushed me. She was able to bridge the language barrier and keep me motivated. She was very welcoming.”
When asked what makes Affton such a strong community, each of the Delics had an immediate answer.
“Affton is a great community, a great school, very friendly. I see students from different cultures and different countries every day, and everybody’s welcome,” said Suvada.
Added Selim, “Affton is diverse, that’s number one. I love it.”
“Everyone’s welcome, not looked at by your difference or your ethnicity or whatever it may be. You’re looked at as an Affton student,” said Selma. “Your differences don’t define you. You’re able to make your own path and succeed the way you want. There’s no barriers really, you’re very much open to do whatever you want if you have the drive to do it.”
“America is a land of opportunities. It really is,” said Selim. “If you want, you can get. You just have to go for it.
“We’re going to stay here until we retire, that’s the plan.”