Salt Lake Community College has become a safe haven and ray of hope for many refugees. They come from various war-torn and violent countries, leaving behind everything and everyone they previously knew, all for the sake of a better life.
Melissa Martzell is an example of such a situation. Martzell arrived in Utah in March of 1995 after being driven out of her home in Bosnia.
“We were forced to stay in a refugee camp in Croatia for seven months,” says Martzell. “There was food and it was safer, but they did not keep families together. Because there was no medical treatment for those of us injured in the war, I will never walk well again.”
Once she arrived in Utah she found her Bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science was not transferable. She also found that her financial aid ran out long before she got her degree.
Many refugees hold higher degrees, like bachelor’s and master’s degrees, from their home countries. However, they often do not have the General Education credits that are required here in the United States. Many do not even have the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma.
That usually means that by the time they complete the basic classes, their financial aid runs out.
Fortunately, there are more and more resources becoming available through the Outreach and Access Center. Resources such as The Refugee Initiative, The University of Utah and the Refugee Club here on campus.
There are also community sponsors who have stepped in to help fill in any remaining needs.
Charles and Ismail, who asked that the paper not print their last names, are two brothers from Sudan who crossed the Atlantic, leaving their family behind, for education in the United States. Sudan is plagued with government infighting that puts innocent lives in danger day to day.
“We had the desire to influence our lives,” says Charles.” We needed to find a safer place to live a better life.”
Both have been living in the U.S. for the better part of five years. This is their first year at Salt Lake Community College. The brothers are in International Studies, working full time jobs and looking towards the future.
Whatever extra money that is earned by the brothers is sent back home to the Sudan in hopes that the rest of the family can make it out alive.
“It is so political,” says Ismail. “[It’s] so meaningless to see women and children fall victim to bad people for no reason at all.”
SLCC is unique in that it is open for students much like Melissa, Charles and Ismail who want to succeed. These students have come a long way for education and the possibility for a better life, regardless of what their past may have been.