CASTLETON, Vt. – Castleton’s ongoing support for the local Rutland Syrian refugee resettlement efforts continues on in an academic setting as the University works to educate and support teachers and other social service practitioners who may work closely with the newly relocated refugee populations in schools or other educational and social environments.
Education Professor Emily Gleason customized the refugee-centered course, which launched in the fall and aims to help familiarize professionals on refugee issues and needs, introduce students to refugee relocation processes and institutional supports in the local region and develop compassion and a greater understanding for refugee populations, as well as strategies to help the integration process in Vermont.
“We covered a lot of different material so far in the class, from the history of the Middle East, to understanding what a refugee is, to how to make them feel comfortable when they are here,” said Gleason.
The class, titled Education for All: Refugee Relocation in Rutland and Local School Contexts, meets every Wednesday night at Castleton Downtown in Rutland. With a full class roster of twenty enrolled educators, including high school teachers, special educators, assistant principals, and social workers, there has been a strong demand for the course, prompting it to be offered again in the spring.
“The vibe throughout the class is very inspiring and powerful,” explained Gleason, whose goal for each student is to leave the class with a better understanding of the refugee culture.
In addition to the course, Castleton has also offered a variety of other events and activities celebrating cultural connections and the Syrian culture. These include a Syrian art exhibit held at multiple of the University’s art galleries on campus and in Rutland, and the screening of the award-winning documentary Salam Neighbors, which included a open panel discussion with one of the films directors, the former United States Ambassador to Syria, and others.
“Whether you believe in the story of creation or the science of evolutions, if you go back far enough through the history of all of our family trees, it is clear that we are all related, all one family, all citizens of the world forever intertwined in a global community,” said Castleton President Dave Wolk in his fall 2016 Convocation speech. “We are all related. We are all one family. Our arms are open to all.”