Voices Project Shares Refugee Stories

This year, the South Asia Center, the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), and Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) collaborated to engage New American students in the Syracuse City School District to tell their stories through visual arts and the written word.

The South Asia Center partnered with 10 teachers from the Syracuse City School District on a project that celebrated the stories and experiences of students coming from refugee and New American families. The Center worked with Susan Cerretani and Christina Stavenhagen-Helgren, professors at Tompkins-Cortland Community College, to engage teachers in techniques to help students communicate their narratives through both the written word and the visual arts.

In undertaking this project, we hoped to help New American students reclaim their identities through art. The project also encouraged discussion among teachers about how to help New American students and their peers better understand cultures, histories, and identities.

Seventy students from six schools participated, and their work was collated into a book, called “Voices of New Americans 2019: An Exploration of Narrative and Art in the Syracuse City School District.” The art was also displayed at an end-of-year event.

Syracuse City School District includes over 3,000 students – 17% of the student population – who have come to the United States as refugees. They include a large number of Bhutanese and Nepali students. This project hopes to highlight and celebrate the myriad cultures of refugees and New Americans and the richness they add to the local Syracuse community