Students to Spend Semester Break in Arizona Helping Refugees Adapt to New Communities

A group of Nebraska Wesleyan University students will start the new year serving those who are starting a new life.

Twelve members of the student organization, Global Service Learning (GSL), along with two NWU staff will travel to Tucson, Arizona, for eight days — January 5-12 — where they will help refugees integrate into their new communities.

GSL will work alongside the Iskashitaa Refugee Network, an organization that welcomes refugee families to their community by supplying food, organizing donations, and providing education. NWU students will assist with harvesting and assembling crops, teaching and mentoring, and creating interpersonal relationships with refugees.

GSL provides opportunities for NWU students to incorporate hands-on service experiences with their academics. The organization serves the local Lincoln community all year, and participates in a national service project during the semester break, and in an international service project each summer.

Said Velazquez, a junior from El Paso, Texas, is excited for the opportunity to serve in Tucson.

“One of my passions is working with refugee and immigrant communities to help them integrate into our community,” he said. “I’m also excited to learn more about immigration laws and restrictions through firsthand experience in Tucson.”

Kelli Wood, Service Learning and Global Service Learning Coordinator, and Eduardo Bousson, University Minister, will travel with the students. Wood accompanied GSL to Tucson in 2011 and said working with the Iskashitaa Refugee Network was a great experience.

“Students will learn about empowerment, cross cultural exchange, collaboration, education, community engagement, diversity, and will become more environmentally conscious,” said Wood.

Following their daily service work, students will gather for evening discussions and reflection of their experience.

Hannah Tangeman, a junior from Bellevue, traveled with GSL to Chicago last winter to participate in a service project. She said the experience was so inspirational that she plans to continue serving local and national communities.

“I learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of during the last trip,” said Tangeman. “I really learned the value of service and how meaningful it is to the people we are serving.” 

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GSL participates in local community service during the year and travels nationally and internationally during semester breaks.