High School Students Talk with Refugees

February 9th, 2017–
On Tuesday, the Museum hosted a program which brought together Godwin High School art students, and former refugees who came to the U.S. through Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC).

The collaboration began last Fall when Megan was approached by Dana Morris, a Godwin High School art teacher. Mrs. Morris was looking to collaborate on a student art project with the Museum to in order to humanize the refugee crisis. She had previously overheard students, as they were changing classes, saying very despairing things about both immigrants and refugees; which was a reflection of what they heard from their collective circles without having met an individual who was a refugee or an immigrant.

The purpose of the project was not to be political, and its origins began well before the executive order which temporarily created a travel ban to the seven Muslim majority countries. Rather it was an attempt to personalize the current humanitarian issue, and provide the opportunity for individuals to have their stories be heard.

The first parts of the project were presentations that Megan, and Emila Stambol gave to students at Godwin. Megan’s presentation focused on Holocaust refugees, and the immigration conditions which existed in the 1930s, not only into the U.S. but in many other countries, as Jews attempted to flee Nazi Germany but also Occupied Europe after the start of the War. Conversely, Mrs. Stambol, a former refugee from Bosnia & Herzegovina, discussed the process for requesting entry into the U.S. today, the countries where refugees are fleeing from today, and how CCC’s Refugee Resettlement Program helps with the process.

Prior to talking with the refugees, Lukas, the VHM’s Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service Intern, gave the students a tour of the exhibits. After lunch, the students listened to the experiences of the refugee speakers in small groups. The refugee speakers were from Bhutan, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, and Sudan. As they listened, the students were able to ask questions and also took notes. From their conversations, the students will be creating artwork which is scheduled to be on display in the Museum’s Melvin Weinstein Art gallery in late March.