When 8-year-old Akalu Bikila was about to eat his first cheeseburger in the US he didn’t put ketchup on it because it reminded him of blood. For the first six years of his life he lived in a homeless shelter with his family in Ethiopia. For the next two years he and his sister Tadelu lived in an orphanage after his father could no longer support them due to a severe injury from a car accident. Akalu and his sister were uncertain about their future until June 2010 when they were adopted by Lacy and Todd Gambill, who changed their names to Luke and Anna. Although the cultural backgrounds of the two countries are enormous, Luke developed quickly to his new environment of Troy, Mo. “From the very beginning all they wanted to be was American,” Todd says. “They were so excited to have American names and all they wanted was to talk in English.” After his first twelve weeks he could no longer speak his native language, even though he didn’t know any English before. Now at 10-years-old, Luke is popular amongst his classmates, involved in sports and attends extra curricular activities, though he still has steps to take to feel on par. Here, Luke Akalu Gambill sings the Pledge of Allegiance with his peers in the gymnasium before school starts at Main Street Elementary School. When Luke first started school in the third grade was able to adapt to school from helpful role models, his father says.

Luke and Dylan Collinson, 9, attempt to stack cups during the after-school latchkey program at Lincoln Elementary School. Every school day Luke attends before and after-school programs, which provide supervised school activities for students whose parents have a longer working day than the typical school day.

Luke raises his hand with the rest of his 5th-grade class to get a sticker for 50-cent lemonade.

Luke is assisted by intervention teacher Emily Culbertson, left, and his 5th grade teacher Sara Rany during a math exercise at Main Street Elementary school. While Luke is perfectly fluent speaking, he is still challenged by reading and writing English.

Luke turns his feet inward underneath his desk during class. Though largely accepted by his classmates Luke still doesn't feel completely at ease in a structured classroom.

Luke loves unstructured, outdoor activities like hanging from the jungle gym bars in the playground outside of Lincoln Elementary School during the after-school latchkey program.

Luke laughs with his sister Anna Tadelu Gambill, 8, after playing a game before school begins at Lincoln Elementary School. Luke and his biological sister feel very close to each other.

Luke and his brother Evan, 8, sister and father leave to go home from the after school latchkey program at Lincoln Elementary School.

Luke and Evan kick the soccer ball around in the front yard before the start of school. When Luke first moved into his new home his first few nights were difficult sleeping alone because he was used sleeping with many others in a homeless shelter and orphanage before coming the to US.

Luke and Evan play with Gameboy devices while their father writes the boys checks for lunch money in the morning before the start of school.

After brushing his teeth Luke runs with enthusiasm down the stairs before going to school in the morning. Even though Luke has some struggles in school he has accepted his new life and often displays exuberance.