Lynnwood nonprofit helps immigrant students along path to educational success

House of Wisdom Vice President Travis Lee tutors students. (Photos by Camilla Hansen, House of Wisdom)

The House of Wisdom, a Lynnwood nonprofit that aims to assist mostly first-generation, immigrant and refugee students at Edmonds College, recently extended its support to high school students. 

The organization partners with Connect Casino Road to provide tutoring services in Lynnwood and Everett, and it helps guide students through college enrollment, understanding college resources and ultimately pursuing higher education and careers.

The House of Wisdom serves all high schools in South Snohomish County, including Edmonds-Woodway, Meadowdale, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood. The nonprofit was relocated to Edmonds College Gateway Hall, Room 201, in September 2023.

House of Wisdom President Ahmad Hilal Abid (background center) chats with a student during a tutoring session.

House of Wisdom Founder and President Ahmad Hilal Abid originally served 20 immigrant and refugee students from his parents’ garage in Lynnwood in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, he and the organization have helped more than 100 students in South Snohomish County, assisted by more than 30 Edmonds College student volunteers.

In addition to one-on-one tutoring services, House of Wisdom offers students community engagement events, such as soccer matches, and help with finding immediate and better employment opportunities. The nonprofit’s name refers to the late 8th century library in Baghdad during the Islamic Golden Age, built by Caliph Haroun Al-Rasheed. It once held translated works from Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire before the library was pillaged and destroyed by the Mongols in 1258. Almost no physical evidence of the original building remains, and some scholars debate its historic function.

Students studying together at House of Wisdom.

“The parents of these immigrants approached me to see if I can help their kids with their math and English,” Abid said, reflecting on the early days of teaching. “I didn’t really have a community where someone can help me with my own language with my assignments. I had to learn English as well. I saw myself in the students so that’s why I stepped up and helped.”

In 2018, Abid immigrated at age 17 to Lynnwood from Kabul, Afghanistan, with the help of relatives who were already living in the city. He understood and spoke almost no English, but he was already fluent in Farsi, Pashto and Hindi (the latter he learned from watching a lot of Indian films). In less than two years, he became fluent in English while attending Edmonds College, earning an associate of arts degree and a paralegal degree.

Since 2022, the House of Wisdom has partnered with several similar nonprofits, including the North Sound Accountable Community of Health and 501 Commons

In April 2023, Abid earned official recognition from 21st District State Sen. Marko Liias, who introduced a resolution that honored Abid. It was officially adopted by legislators on March 4.

“Our vision is very clear and inclusive, so that we have been able to progress in such a small amount of time,” Abid said. 

House of Wisdom President Ahmad Hilal Abid standing alongside Edmonds College President Dr. Amit Singh as Dr. Singh visited one of the House of Wisdom tutoring classes on Jan 22 in Lynnwood.

Edmonds College President Amit Singh said that having House of Wisdom on campus allows Abid and other volunteers to expand their impactful work while enriching the college community. 

“Here, students are creating bonds and networks to help them succeed in their education and beyond,” he said. “Our shared mission of teaching, learning and community forms the foundation for this impactful partnership.”

Ahmad Hilal Abid helps a student with her homework.

Abid is now studying political science at the University of Washington, aspiring to earn a law degree and pursue a legal career. He said that the path to what he had created was not easy, and he hopes that other immigrants like him would have the resources that he did not have.

“I basically have lost everything, coming to a new country, a new culture, adopt into a new system,” Abid said. “I basically have worked day and night to learn English, and it’s still a new language to me and a challenge everyday. I have to do it. One of the things about my life is helping and serving others. I had this commitment when I was at the school where I was volunteering back in Afghanistan, helping underprivileged and minority students.”

House of Wisdom accepts donations to help fund its programs via the Community Foundation of Snohomish County.

— By Nick Ng

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