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Think Globally, Act Locally: Upper School class explores global refugee crisis

By Jessica Yonzon, Upper School Social Studies Teacher, Coordinator of International Diploma

While many of us have seen news coverage of the global refugee crisis and heard the debate surrounding refugee resettlement in the United States, few of us have had the opportunity to hear first-hand from people who have lived through the experience of fleeing their homeland and coming to a new country to live. For a number of our Upper School students, the impact of the crisis now has a familiar face.

As part of the Global Issues course curriculum, students study the global refugee crisis and 

have the unique opportunity to both hear from refugees and learn about the resettlement process in Raleigh. On Tuesday, Nov. 6, these students met with Saleema Azim, a former refugee from Afghanistan, and Adrienne Morton, who serves as refugee outreach coordinator at Lutheran Services Carolinas. Azim shared her experience in Afghanistan and her journey to the United States, while Morton spoke about the work that her agency does to help resettle newly arrived refugees in Raleigh.

In years past, this workshop has inspired many students to get involved in supporting refugees in our community by tutoring refugee children, hosting children’s parties and outings, and creating informational videos on a number of helpful topics, such as U.S. school systems and Raleigh’s public transportation options. By connecting with refugees and engaging in service learning, our students are able to cultivate awareness, appreciation and understanding of their local (yet very global) community.

The impact of the program can be heard in their own voices:

“I found it very memorable that our speaker described Americans as friendly and helpful as she underwent her relocation process. I often see stories in the news of discrimination, and I found it very refreshing to see someone who has felt welcomed by Americans.” — Nick Zullo ’19

“One memorable thing from today’s [visit] was her absolute resilience when discussing the challenges she faced and how she overcame them. I will not forget this easily because it reminded me of how many things I take for granted.” — Sarah Davenport ’21

“When today’s teenagers are adults, there will still be millions of refugees needing homes, unfortunately. As young Americans, it is our job to make sure that we help them the best we possibly can.” — Elizabeth Huffstetler ’21

“The refugee crisis has opened up my eyes to the rest of the world beyond what is happening in my small community. People need to realize the severity of this crisis; we can’t just ignore it.” — Emerson Replogle ’21