United forChange 2017 was a phenomenal event. We made a few changes this year, like moving from a lunch to breakfast, and added some new features—bacon bar anyone?!
One of my favorite new features was having community partners present awards to our 2017 Changemakers. It was great for people that we work with every day on the ground to have a chance to shine a light on their coworkers and friends. We got to know our partners more deeply and understand more fully the impact they have on our communities.
We also had one voice from a very special community member. Nour Bilal, a junior at Cottonwood High School, shared her and her family’s story about being resettled as refugees in Utah from Syria. Nour and her family have been in Salt Lake City for two and a half years. Her father was arrested in Syria, for reasons unknown to the family, and held for months in prison. Upon being released, he gathered his family and they left their hometown in Syria, fleeing for refuge and safety.
Nour has grown into an incredible young woman, someone I am proud to know. She is poised, fearless, and determined. She helps organize and advocate for other refugee students at Cottonwood and has built relationships that will be with her for a lifetime. I’m sure this is in part due to her participation in the Latinos in Action and Mentor 2.0 program at Cottonwood, not to mention the incredible staff and support system that exist at our school.
Nour wasn’t the only one of our Cottonwood students highlighted at United For Change. Six others were also interviewed for a short video. If you didn’t catch it in the last post, this video features more of our refugee students, in which they discuss their struggles, hopes and dreams for the future and their families. In this current political climate, highlights like this give us a names and faces to issues, make them human, and remind us that we are all connected on basic core values of safety, love, and compassion. And of course, none of us would have the chance to know the stories of these resilient, strong kids without the open, welcome arms of resettlement agencies like International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services.
We can all agree the work United Way of Salt Lake and its partners are doing is important. But we don’t always get the chance to thank the individuals making change in our students and families lives, and rarely are those students given a platform from which to thank those Changemakers. United for Change 2017 was the perfect way to honor and appreciate all who are involved in this work.