The Joy of Circling Back

Awale Osman wears a blue shirt and smiles in front of a hedgeFor a young man born in a Kenyan refugee camp and immigrating to the U.S. at age 12 through the persistent efforts of his hard-working mother, to now be chosen as one of 31 young Fellows from 25 countries to participate in the 2017 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Learners’ Voice Program may seem unlikely. And for Awale (“Wally”) Osman ’15, it is “surreal.” But this opportunity is one of many that have energized him.

And, for him, this year’s conference topic is very close to home—Global Forced Migration and Refugee Crisis.

Osman has just returned from the first residential session, held in Athens, Greece, where the Fellows had a chance to study how Greece was handling its own refugee crisis and the challenges that affect a refugee community. The group heard from established experts on the topic, studied where crises were occurring, and proposed possible solutions. They heard from those working “on the ground” and did volunteer work with individuals having to go through the process of seeking asylum. The session in Athens (“an extraordinary experience,” says Osman) and a second residential session, to be convened during the summer in Madrid, Spain, will culminate in the WISE conference in Doha in November.

As Osman looks back on the many opportunities he has been granted, he is consistently motivated to give back. He mentions his ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers in the U.S., who played a pivotal role in conquering his first major barrier (and that of most refugees)—language. Those teachers also put him in touch with Boys & Girls Club, where he became involved; Upward Bound, which prepared him for college; and TRiO/Student Support Services, which helped him persist in earning his bachelor’s degree. These are part of the Federal TRiO programs funded through the U.S. Department of Education and focusing on providing comprehensive academic support, integrated learning courses, learning communities, academic English enhancement, and leadership development for low- to moderate-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities.

Awale Osman with TRiO studentsOsman sees these TRiO programs as the “main pillars” that helped him grow personally and professionally. They enabled him to set goals and find connections to resources. They evaluated his progress, held him accountable, and served as a source of emotional support. And they kept him connected, even as he worked to support his family (most of whom now live in the States). Continue reading “The Joy of Circling Back”

Urban Debate League Tackles Real Life Challenges

2014 Mayor's Challenge.
2014 Mayor’s Challenge.

Minnesota Urban Debate League (MNUDL), a program of Augsburg College, is charged with the mission to empower students through competitive academic debate to become engaged learners, critical thinkers, and active citizens who are effective advocates for themselves and their communities.

Under the leadership of Executive Director, Amy Cram Helwich, and with the support of faculty advisor, Robert Groven, MNUDL currently serves more than 750 students at 39 partner schools and has seen sustained growth in student participation and academic growth since its inception in 2004.

This year, Urban Debate League has expanded their programming to include Spanish and Somali debate. May 27, 2015, Urban Debate league will pilot a Somali Debate Initiative with a Community Forum including Representative Keith Ellison and other community leaders. The topic is facilitating remittances from the United States to Somalia. This legislation affects many of our current Somali students—the debaters will engage in a high-level conversation to determine possible solutions for this community challenge.

Several alumni are also involved in the Mayor’s Challenge: The Great Water Debate, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. Registration is at 7:30 a.m., and the program begins at 8 a.m. This year’s national high school policy debate topic is “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its non-military exploration and/or development of the earth’s oceans.” Students at the breakfast will present an informative debate specific to Minnesota lakes and rivers.

Alumni are invited to attend! If you are interested, please sign up here to attend the May 13 fundraising event for Urban Debate League.

  • The Urban Debate League currently has sites at 39 schools serves 700 students.
  • 100% of debaters graduate on time and 99% have been accepted to college.
  • In the Twin Cities, debaters are 40% more likely to graduate than non-debaters.

To learn more visit the: Minnesota Urban Debate League home page.