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I Stand With Immigrants Event Touts Unity and Understanding

October, 2018
  • QCC students identify the countries that they came from on a map of the world.
    QCC students identify the countries that they came from on a map of the world
  • From left: QCC students Maria Puello, Thi Thanh Hang Huynh, Roanlis Toribio, Luceily Ortiz and Noor Altahafee.
    From left: QCC students Maria Puello, Thi Thanh Hang Huynh, Roanlis Toribio, Luceily Ortiz and Noor Altahafee.
  • Coordinator of Future Focus Program Gilmarie Vongphakdy locates her country of origin
    Coordinator of Future Focus Program Gilmarie Vongphakdy locates her country of origin while Professor Doe West and Director of Student Life Mike Beane look on.
  • A world map denotes QCC students, faculty and staff countries of origin.
    A world map denotes QCC students, faculty and staff countries of origin
  • QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja stands with Immigrants.
    QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja stands with Immigrants.
  • Ethic foods were a part of the "I Stand with Immigrants" event.
    Ethic foods were a part of the "I Stand with Immigrants" event.
  • QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja discusses his journey as an immigrant in an interview for Worcester News Tonight.
    QCC President Dr. Luis Pedraja discusses his journey as an immigrant in an interview for Worcester News Tonight.

Quinsigamond Community College joined with over 170 colleges and universities nationwide in the third annual I Stand With Immigrants Day of Action, held on October 24. Close to 100 students attended the event, which featured ethnic food and impassioned stories from QCC students, faculty and staff who discussed their own personal experiences as immigrants. Immigrants play an important role in supporting our higher education system and are a part of the rich culture that makes up the student body at QCC.

QCC President Dr. Luis G. Pedraja, who emigrated from Cuba as a young child, told his story of growing up in a low-income Miami neighborhood and the challenges that he faced as an immigrant and first-generation college student. He told of the many restrictive policies in Cuba that drove his family to the U.S. seeking a better life.

“Immigrants have been a strong part of this community. We need to look at the human face of people and our common humanities,” Dr. Pedraja said. “Our diverse stories and history make up the unique and special fabric of the country that we all call ‘home’ today.”

Gilmarie Vongphakdy, QCC’s Coordinator of the Future Focus Program and Director of Community Bridges Deborah Gonzalez, both originally from Puerto Rico, described the challenges and similar prejudices other immigrants faced when coming to the U.S. even though they were also U.S. citizens.

QCC Student Trustee Benjamin Aryeh shared a powerful narrative of his journey to the U.S. from Ghana, telling of his trials of immediately going to work after high school until he found a way to the U.S. and eventually to QCC.

“People need to look at us for the value we bring onboard. We may be different colors but we’re all beautiful people. This is why I stand for immigrants,” Mr. Aryeh said.

Noella Penn, a QCC nursing student from Cameroon, said she faced a lot of challenges as an immigrant, from people not understanding her accent, to not knowing anything about her homeland country. She said she has appreciated being at QCC, where she feels part of a community.

“This country has opened a lot of opportunities and given me a lot of chances,”  added student Mustafa Boweden, vice president of the college’s Student Senate.

Originally from Libya, Mr. Boweden said he has also found QCC to be a welcoming place for immigrants.

The final story of the day was from Professor of Human Services Doe West. She told of her Native American heritage and her grandmother’s harrowing story of being forced into slavery as a very young child, simply because she was Native American.

“We need to respect and learn about one another’s culture. It’s imperative that we always see the person in one another,” Ms. West said.

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