Refugee Leadership Graduation

Salt Lake Community College and Refugee Services Office recently celebrated a combined Youth and Adult class graduation ceremony and dinner at South Campus.  Twelve adults and 19 youth completed 3 months of training to learn how to serve their communities, their families, and their government in leadership capacities.

Dressed in their cultural and finer dress clothes, the students heard speeches from their mentors, their sponsors and from fellow students.  Each received a Certificate of Completion and shared in a cultural celebration African Dinner prepared by a fellow refugee, Kaltum Mohamed, owner of Mother Of All Catering.

For 14 years, SLCC in partnership with DWS and RSO, has been coordinating and operating the Adult Refugee Class.  Four years ago, the Youth class was added in response to teenagers’ need for direction and leadership skills.  American Express generously funds both programs through an annual grant.  Each year the coordinators review each program and add additional meaningful experiences like field trips to the state capitol and youth team building day at Camp K.

The students learn as much from one another as they do from the team of subject matter experts brought in each week to facilitate discussions on various topics like public speaking, government structure, personal finance and budgeting, as well as difficult subjects like conflict resolution, sexual violence and mental health.

The adult students also complete a project during their sessions that help solve a real problem they are currently facing in their communities.  Top projects are given funding to implement their proposed solution.  The youth prepared videos and oral presentations addressing an aspiration they have for their futures.  The youth reported that a major outcome they weren’t expecting was the friendships they forged in the classroom with students from other schools, other cultures, and other backgrounds.  The social aspect of the class became an equally important learning outcome about how to communicate and learn from others who are not like you.

“Each year I’m grateful to the dedication the students and staff give the leadership program.  For 12 weeks they show up committed to making a difference with a genuine interest in wanting to see change and help solve refugee-related problems.  The refugees are grateful for this training and do all they can to embrace some new and difficult concepts, said Beth Colosimo, Executive Director at SLCC who facilitates the programs.  “The refugees see problems first-hand and aren’t always equipped with the knowledge and tools to solve them.  They genuinely want to lead their communities to better lives in Utah.”