The faces in the classroom express a variety of emotions—curiosity, suspicion, interest, excitement, displeasure, boredom. The UE Syrian student begins to talk, to show images, to share his heart—Syria, the culture, the people, the Crisis, the refugees, the stats, the horror, the hope. And during the class period, during the presentation, something shifts. Are hearts and lives utterly changed? Probably not. But something shifts. A relaxation occurs in the students. A loosening of previous conceptions, a slipping away of critical attitudes begins. Something opens. An eye, a mind; a heart, perhaps. Is it identifiable by the presenter, by the students?

 

Maybe, maybe not. But something happens in that classroom, every classroom, when a Syrian student shares his life with these local school students. 

Educational Outreach:

They have come face to face and heart to heart. And human beings cannot remain the same when they see the face and the heart of another. And when the other is different, of a different country, of a different culture, the change multiplies.We know others, and we cannot turn back. We look into the eyes of others and hear their stories, see their tears, hear their laughter, realize that family and school and music and McDonalds and friends and so many more things are as important to them as they are to us. And we reach out, want to know more, to know better, to help.

This is why Scholars for Syria places UE Syrian students in local middle and high school classrooms. To allow these students to meet their first Syrian, to meet someone who the news says so much about, to listen to someone that so many things are said about in their homes, their schools, their own minds. To have the opportunity to make that shift, much like the author of this poem did:

Young man from Damascus, 

carrying little luggage, no hope, lost dreams,

carrying memories of ISIS, the Crisis, 

carrying streams and streams

of hurt, pain, and all the scars 

of all the wars fought and unfought

by him and friends and family,

inside and out, that mar

body and mind and heart, caught

between the spring and the growing cold,

the East and West, who know they know

what's best for Syrians, the denizens 

of Palmyra, Homs, Aleppo,

the displaced, the refugee, the citizens

of nowhere, now here, knocking at our door,

but not let in.

Young man from Damascus, 

breaking down barriers,

a carrier of dreams,

of streams and streams of courage,

the scourge of pre-

conceptions, misconceptions,

a carrier, infected with faith, 

faith in the conception

of a world turned right-side up,

a carrier transmitting this healing disease,

this contagious bug of love,

this wounded healer teaching the untaught,

fighting the fight so often unfought--

fragmenting the stereotypes--

all the gripes and snipes

at people unlike us, people unliked by us,

taking the chance to speak out, speak up,

speak for those with no voice, no choice.

Young man from Damascus,

this Syrian, giving us cause to rejoice,

helping us see he's just like us.

Know of a Tri-State local school that would like to engage its students with Syrians studying at UE? Email Gail Vignola at gv15@evansville.edu to make arrangements.

INVITE SYRIAN STUDENTS TO YOUR SCHOOL

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