Refugee high school students will participate in “We Are Syracuse” event at School of Education, March 1


The third annual “We Are Syracuse” event will be hosted on Wednesday, March 1 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m in the Sharon Jacquet Education Commons, Huntington Hall, on the Syracuse University Campus. Refugee students from Nottingham High School will come to share their stories at this gallery-style event that’s dedicated to celebrating their cultures and promoting tolerance.

Students from Nepal, Uganda, Myanmar (Karen), Iraq, Congo, and Somalia will tell of their experiences through written and spoken narratives, small-group PowerPoint presentations, and conversation over food and artwork, says Nottingham English as a New Language teacher Lauren Cirulli G’10. The event is a collaboration between her and faculty in the School of Education’s Teaching English Language Learners  (TELL) program.

Cirulli calls the event “extremely beneficial” for the participating refugee students.

“It allows them to visit a college campus and interact with professors, students, and the community. It allows them to hone in on their public speaking skills, too. Most importantly, these students get to share their culture with others. They get to educate, which is an incredible thing to be part of,” she says.

Associate Professor Zaline M. Roy-Campbell, coordinator of the TELL program, says We Are Syracuse offers “a way for the community to better understand the plight of our immigrant and refugee population in Syracuse.”

Cirulli initiated the event, Roy-Campbell says, “as she wishes to showcase the talents and stories of her students.”

English Language Learners make up about 30 percent of the approximately 1,200 students enrolled at Nottingham, Cirulli says.

“These students are extremely resilient, and at Nottingham we get to watch them grow every day. That being said, students do struggle with acquiring the academic language and also navigating a new place and understanding how their culture fits in,” Cirulli says.

But, with acceptance and adjustment, success follows.

“I have to say that Nottingham is an extremely welcoming place, and students quickly find activities to join, friends to hang out with, and their culture is appreciated here,” Cirulli says.

“In terms of successes, you have those everyday successes like a student writing a paragraph for the first time or passing their first Regents exam. You have students joining a club or playing a sport and eventually you get to help them apply for college, which is extremely exciting.

“Ultimately, the greatest success is watching a student cross that stage at the end of the year for their diploma.”

And that diploma opens up the possibility of higher education.

“One of the biggest achievements is that some of the students who arrived in Syracuse as refugees within the past 10 years have become students at Syracuse and other universities,” says Roy-Campbell. 

When ELLs visit campus, School of Education students also benefit, gaining more knowledge about some of the students they will teach in the near future.

“The SOE students will learn about the cultures here in Syracuse and hopefully be able to take away some of the knowledge they gain throughout the event and apply it in their own classrooms,” Cirulli says. “The number of ELLs in schools nationwide has increased, and this offers them a one-on-one opportunity to be part of something special.”

Cirulli and her students will also offer henna, the powdered leaves uses for dye and coloring, for a donation to benefit the Refugee Resettlement Services program of Catholic Charities.

For more information about We Are Syracuse, contact Roy-Campbell at