Supporting Local Refugees

September 06, 2017
Each spring, Gonzaga’s SOE Social Justice Committee welcomes refugee families from Spokane and surrounding areas for a night of engagement and discussion with faculty and candidates on education opportunities for their children. Transportation to Gonzaga is provided for the families, and they come to campus full of hope. Many options exist for children who are refugees to this country, and our purpose is to provide the tools they will need to be able to go out and make the most of them. SOE faculty and candidates participate in conversation with the parents and instill faith in them that their children deserve and can achieve a higher education.

Dr. Jerri Shepard, Associate Professor in the Department of Leadership and Administration, explains that three years ago, the SOE collaborated with World Relief Refugee Resettlement and Spokane Schools to provide an information night for parents who are interested in having their children attend college. The goal was to provide information in terms of academics, college life, and extracurricular activities, as well as support services. Dr. Shepard reveals that, “as a faculty member who teaches about cultural diversity to undergraduate and graduate students, I realize what I do not know. It is humbling, and I am so inspired by these parents and all they have to go through to establish their lives in the United States.”

This year, Dr. Michelle Ghoston, Assistant Professor in Counseling Education, invited one of her graduate students from Saudi Arabia to speak to the parents about her own adjustment to the cultural differences in the U.S. to help them recognize that advanced education is possible for their children as well. The stories and the journeys these parents bring with them change the perspectives of our candidates to be sensitive to the cultural differences and to foster compassion, warmth, and understanding within them.