Hours before ringing in 2022, Grand Rapids Community College graduate Amer Bektaš sat in the announcers’ booth in Miami, calling the Orange Bowl football game for the University of Michigan student radio program, WCBN Sports.
His broadcast broke the record for all-time listenership at U of M, with more than 80,000 people tuning in.
Behind this first-generation college student completing his U of M Bachelor of Science in Information degree are his parents – both refugees who came to the United States during the Bosnian War in the 1990s.
Mirsad and Almedina Bektaš spoke no English then, and were among some 37,000 refugees from Bosnia and asylum-seekers who obtained legal permanent resident status between 1992 and 2000, according to U.S. Census data estimates.
Amer and his two younger brothers, Anel and Armin, were born and raised in Caledonia.
“Growing up in Caledonia, you could count on one hand how many Bosnians went to my schools,” Amer said. He recalled making friends with students who went to Kentwood and Forest Hills districts.
“We stay connected through the Bosnian Cultural Center and our mosque to where we can go and be together,” Amer said.
A 2016 survey titled “New Americans in Kent County” identified Bosnia as one of the top five countries of origin in the area, including Mexico, Guatemala, Vietnam and Canada.
Amer’s father, Mirsad, is also very involved in Grand Rapids’ Bosnian community.
“My dad is very Bosnian,” Amer said. “He’s committed to not forgetting where we came from and keeping the roots of our community tightknit.”
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