Brooke Bacigal (BA '20) talks about her organization (Re)Vive that aims to improve the lives of refugee students by helping them with everyday tasks that can be barriers to these people such as emails, cover letters, and job applications.
So I'm going to start with a question: Who here has ever written e-mail?
Now raise you hand.
Alright probably all of us right.
I think some of you might be writing ones right now.
But just think about how integral email has become.
We use it to communicate, to apply to jobs, to ask questions...
heck, an email probably invited you to this very event.
Yet if you've never sent an email, it can present a major barrier.
So if this were an email, I should have started with a greeting.
Maybe "Dear judges".
Maybe "Dear audience", but then you have to introduce yourself.
So my name is Brooke Bacigal, and I'm a senior at the Ford School.
Two years ago my co-founder Aya Kutma and I started an organization called (Re)Vive.
It was 2017, and we were entering into the 6th year of the Syrian crisis.
While Syrian students were pushed out of classrooms and joined what's called the "lost generation" or a group of students who, due to longevity of conflict, have been out of school for 5 plus years, I was sitting in this room.
In my second year of university reading about them.
Now I went into policy because unlike other degrees where we would stay in that ivory tower studying the effects of the refugee crisis, Ford students were equipped with the skills to roll up our sleeves and actually start something.
To go out and do something and make a change.
So we did.
Recognising limitation since we couldn't teach all of 5th grade or pay for everyone's tuition.
Couldn't even really pay for our own.
We made it our mission to focus on those smaller things like e-mails, cover letters, job applications...
things that we take for granted but present legitimate barriers to refugee students on a daily basis.
Through (Re)Vive, we partner with organizations that are embedded in the community to conduct needs assessments and develop culturally relevant curriculum.
To date we've had 5 workshops in over 4 different cities in the U.S. and Turkey and are looking to expand to Lebanon in the spring.
So this summer, I realized that individual change without institutional changes not simply enough.
Refugee students could learn how to apply to colleges, but if colleges couldn't learn how to accept refugee students, then barriers- like how someone could be fluent in 5 languages but maybe only proficient in English or requiring high school transcript from schools that have been destroyed by war- present really serious barriers.
They inhibit enrollment and discourage applicants.
So moving forward through a partnership with the School of Social Work, I'm looking to address the application process itself to make it easier for refugee students to apply to college.
Now we skip through a couple steps in our lesson but you end the body of your email with a request and a conclusion.
I urge you to share and learn what you have learned- I urge you to share what you learn with those who have not had the same opportunities as you and learn from their experiences as well.
Because what I've learned through my work is that at the end of it all, we're sitting in this room sending emails for no other reason than circumstance and fate.
And the students I work with through (Re)Vive deserve the same opportunities that we've received every bit as much as we do.
So we should give them that chance.
"Thank you for listening" comma "Brooke Bacigal".