What one group of refugee girls is thankful for this Thanksgiving

Updated 5:06 PM ET, Wed November 27, 2019

(CNN)Along a short hallway on the upper floor of Decatur Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, a blue banner stretches across the wall, packed with scrawled messages of thanks and words swelling with appreciation.

The colorful scribbles belong to the 37 students at the Global Village Project, a tuition-free private school housed in the building that serves refugee girls between the ages of 11 and 18. Students at the school have been in the US for three years or less and hail from countries like Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Syria and Somalia.
In the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, the group of girls gathered to celebrate a core value of the Global Village Project: Appreciation.

Grateful for an education

The banner was just one way they expressed their gratitude. The short messages thank their teachers and the more than 200 volunteers that work at the school.
One note reads, "I love all of my GVP teachers because they teach us so good and they are so lovely teachers. And they also teach us how to be kind for others."
    Ayesha, a GVP student from Pakistan, told CNN she is incredibly grateful to be at the Global Village school because of all the years of learning she missed while in refugee camps in Thailand.
    For six years, she said, she was unable to attend classes. So, when she came with her family to the US, she was placed in a school where she struggled to speak and learn in English.
    "It was my first year and I don't speak English so well. But this year I get to come to the girls' school," she told CNN. "In my old school, it was like more boys than girls. They talked a lot there so I was not happy to be there. But when I came here, I was so happy and also I got to learn English here and my English is getting so better."
    Because of their refugee status, the students at GVP have had interrupted, limited or no education. According to the school, the girls who enter their program -- even those as old as 18 -- typically arrive with delayed reading and math skills and limited or no English proficiency.
    Katelynn Villari, the school's counselor, explains that public schools often don't have the resources to give refugee students the intensive support and individual attention that is needed to bring them up to a typical academic level for their age, which makes it extremely difficult for them to succeed and much less likely to attend college.

    Grateful for family

    As the girls sat together during a discussion about Thanksgiving,