Special visit day introduces refugee students to UNI



Refugee students were given an opportunity to experience what UNI has to offer as the Ethnic Student Promoters hosted a visit day.

NIXSON BENITEZ, Executive Editor

On Saturday, April 10, UNI Ethnic Student Promoters (ESP) hosted a Refugee Visit Day in collaboration with Des Moines Refugee Support, a program that welcomes refugees from around the world and provides a variety of services.

This day included a series of events, a campus tour and a presentation for the students to spark the conversation of college.

The idea for a refugee visit day originally came from Ethan Vance, a former member of ESP who is majoring in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

  Vance was involved in UNI Refugee & Immigrant Support and Empowerment, also known as UNI RISE. The student organization had already established a partnership with Des Moines Refugee Support, but Vance wanted to take an extra step to support them even further.

“It is more than just me (and) the student org of RISE. I knew I wanted the students to come experience a college campus, and I reached out during the fall of 2020,” said Vance.

Vance utilized his resources and his recent involvement with ESP and UNI RISE to bring this idea to life in collaboration with ESP advisor Emily Villarreal, despite the challenges of COVID-19.

“We were planning a day to come, and it finally came to fruition after a month or two months of planning,”  said Vance. “This is important to me because I fully believe one of the building blocks or foundations for equity, equality and inclusion for all is education. This is especially important for those who have a refugee status. This is granting them new opportunities in life.”

The day started at 10 a.m. as students got to have a conversation with Office of Admissions staff members and current college students discussing their experiences in the university. The goal was to give attending students confidence and make the college opportunity visible.

“College is more accessible than it seems,” said a student attending Refugee Visit Day.

“I can do it!” said another student.

Throughout the day, students were also separated into groups and received personalized tours around the campus, during which they had the chance to ask more questions.

“They were intrigued we didn’t have substitute teachers,” said Jerrell Bates, junior psychology major and president of ESP.

“This exposed students to different careers,” said Ayah Al-Durazi, a political science major and the Director of Community Outreach for ESP.

Villarreal expressed her gratitude for Bates, Al-Durazi and the other current students, such as Stephanie Flores and Gisselle Herrera, who helped organize the event.

“We couldn’t do this without our current student involvement and our current students who volunteered and made this come to life. Their involvement has made this impact,” she said. “We hope to continue this partnership of exposing the students to come to campus, and if people are interested, they can definitely reach out and collaborate with us.”

To be informed of future collaborations or to collaborate with ESP in bringing students to campus, email [email protected].