After studying Arabic in Morocco as a National Security Language Initiative (NSLI-Y) student, Adam Sella gained far more than impressive language skills. While abroad he spent time with fellow NSLI-Y scholars who worked with refugees in their hometowns, and began learning about the growing global refugee crisis. According to Adam, “My experience as a NSLI-Y scholar in Rabat, Morocco…was a turning point in my life. Apart from learning Arabic and enjoying the Moroccan culture, I met amazing people, from fellow American scholars to local Moroccans. One thing I did not anticipate was that I would become so passionate about helping refugees in my community.”
Upon returning home to Ohio, Adam was determined to help refugees in the United States. Last year, he started a club at his high school called STAR: Students Together Assisting Refugees. The group has already made huge strides in supporting refugees in Ohio and around the United States. To help raise awareness, STAR held two assemblies at Adam’s high school: one where two refugee students from Bhutan told the emotional stories of their resettlement in the US, and another where the German Consulate General of Chicago discussed the refugee crisis and Germany’s response. The group also organized a collection of household items that were donated to 266 refugee families in Cincinnati. In October, STAR held a benefit concert featuring musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra that raised nearly $5,500 for scholarships that will be given to local refugee students. Additionally, STAR members volunteer each week tutoring refugee students. Adam encourages other schools to start their own local STAR clubs, and there are already seven groups around the country.
Adam is not the only exchange student alum committed to serving the refugee population. Joshua Kriesmann, an alumnus of the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, started a similar organization in Germany called Schüler Treffen Flüchtlinge e.V., or “Students Meet Refugees”. Adam and Joshua recently connected thanks to the State Department’s Alumni Network, and they have already started collaborating. The work of these alumni and their organizations has an incredible impact on the lives of refugees, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.