One Queens teen will be the belle of the ball this New Year’s Eve.
Sonam Lama, a 16-year-old senior at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, will be one of five representatives from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to push the button, signaling the lowering of the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball, and help lead the 60-second countdown to 2015.
“It is such a great honor and there are so many thoughts and emotions going through my mind and my heart right now,” Lama said. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity to participate in New Year’s Eve in Times Square and am really looking forward to pressing the button along with other awesome and inspiring people.”
The IRC, an organization that helps refugees from around the world, resettled Lama from her native Nepal when she came to the United States in 2012.
Lama’s family was forced from their village after her father, an active member of the Nepali Congress party, faced pressure to join the Maoists.
Even after they moved to the city of Kathmandu, they were followed, and with no help from the police, they had to keep moving from location to location, according to Lama. In 2005, her father applied for political asylum in the U.S. and left Nepal.
Lama said she didn’t know a lot about America, but imagined her father would be wearing a suit, carrying briefcases and living in tall skyscrapers “like the movies.”
When Lama and her family finally joined her father in May 2012, life in America was not what she imagined, including the small, older building that would be her home. But she did find improvements, such as medical help for her sister who needed a hearing aid.
Though the Elmhurst resident found no language barriers after learning English in school since kindergarten and from watching television, high school was a challenge.
Lama admits at first she had difficulty adapting to her large school, but after joining clubs and activities, such as the Red Cross, UNICEF, badminton and volleyball during her junior year, she was able to make friends.
Joining Lama during the famed ball drop will be models Alek Wek and Nykhor Paul, both former refugees from South Sudan, Jencarlos Canela, an award-winning musician and actor who has volunteered with IRC, and IRC President and CEO David Miliband.