KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- She's been alive less than a decade, yet she's experienced more than most will in a lifetime. The 9-year-old girl fled Syria with her family, and now she's channeling her pain into writing and becoming a star student at her Kansas City school.
"I feel happy because we came here," Hala said.
In a sweet, timid voice, Hala sits and smiles as she writes in fluent English with great concentration, describing her time in America.
"This morning I feel happy because I'm at the school and learn," Hala said.
For many, it's hard to believe just one year ago, Hala's life was beset by chaos.
"We hear the crying. Children were hurt and crying."
She said she heard constant crying, witnessed bombings, where lives were lost and violence was everywhere she turned. The 9-year-old lived in fear, even at school.
"I remember the school and the teacher would hit people. Students crying. He was not nice," she described.
Hala's family went into survival mode, moving around a lot, spending some time in Jordan. She and her family fled to America. Several months later, Hala is keeping up with her classmates and able to speak and write in English.
"I was pretty blown away," Crestview Elementary School teacher Brooke Weins said.
Here, Hala is no longer in fear, but instead has grown close with her teachers.
"She does go home and is helping her parents learn English as well," Weins said.
Hala has been instrumental in helping other refugee students get settled.
"I like to help people," she said.
She's witnessed a lot of pain. Now, her dream is to help people survive.
"I want to be a doctor because, I want to help my grandmother and my grandfather and help people," she said.
Hala and her family came to the US with the help of Della Lamb, an agency that helps refugees. Teachers say Hala shows students and staff every single day that your past does not have to define your future.