Students Talk Refugees, Immigration at GMS – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Students Talk Refugees, Immigration at GMS

Cross-cultural understanding is one of the instrumental initiatives that the HWS Office of Intercultural Affairs has pursued since its inception. As a resource center, the office hosts and facilitates important dialogue and opportunities for story-telling that seeks to break down barriers and share lived experiences of HWS community members. This semester, several students visited Geneva Middle School to speak with 8th graders.

Jerlin Garo ’17, Olikoye Akanle ’16 and Mohammed Daajneh ’16 spent time in Shannon Kelly’s social studies classroom in February to add context to a unit on refugees and immigration.

“Each of the three HWS students brought a unique perspective that tied beautifully into the current 8th grade English unit on refugees and Social Studies curriculum on immigration,” says Kelly.

Akanle, who is from Nigeria, was able to make connections between the unit materials and his experiences at home. In particular, the students who had previously watched a TEDTalk on the country expressed interest in Akanle’s knowledge of cities and cultural life.

“They clearly understood a lot already, which is good, and were willing to learn more about it. I believe kids that get educated about immigration from an earlier age will be able to say and do more about the immigration system in America, especially if they hear from those who have experienced it themselves,” he reflects.

Garo also added perspective to the conversation as an adult who immigrated to America from the Dominican Republic at the decision of a parent. Daajneh, from Palestine, shared his story of traveling alone from a young age and working to improve living conditions for his family.

“I thought it was a great experience to speak to the 8th grade students. It was amazing to see how interested they were in each of our stories,” he says.

Students who are interested in participating in future panels should email

In the photo above, Mohammed Daajneh ’16?, Jerlin Garo ’17 and ?Olikoye Akanle ’16 share lived experiences of immigration with Geneva Middle School students.