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International Studies students embrace ‘Be the Change’ at Law Day

May 2, 2013 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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When Faiza Almontesar came to America six years ago her first taste of life as an Ameican teenager was harsh. She was picked on, had her traditional hijab torn off her head, and was called a terrorist by fellow classmates. 

Almontesar turned to poetry as an outlet and has been on a mission to help other immigrant children as they transition to in America. Her work in this realm was noticed and Almontesar was asked to speak at the King County Civil Court’s Law Day celebration yesterday afternoon. 

Almontesar, who is from Yemen, read a moving poem about equality called “Identity” and reminded the audience that race or religion notwithstanding,  we all share similar identities. The poem’s topic tied in perfectly with the Civil Court’s Law Day them ‘Be the Change.’  Furthering the ‘Be the Change’ motif, the court invited seniors form the Brooklyn School of International Studies to give speeches on the ways in which they have overcome their own difficulties and essentially became the change they wanted to see. 

“These are very bright kids, who have already gone through quite a lot in their own young lives,” Hon. Lisa S. Ottley said. “We invited them here because we felt that they are the perfect example of people who through change have been able to overcome some of the obstacles they have dealt with.”

BSIS is a school for immigrant students who are learning English as a second language and have been in the country for less than four years. Students represented the countries of El Salvador, Guinea, Yemen, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Mexico.

Jose Tochimani spoke about his time working in the fields picking onions and cucumbers in Mexico as a child and how that experience continues to inspire him to try to help other children.

Steevenstom Joseph asked the audience to think about how their lives are privileged and compared it to his life growing up in Haiti. He explained that he uses the drive of those that have overcome adversity to fuel his drive and passion to pursue a nursing career. 

Farzana Boby, from Bangladesh, spoke about working to try to get immigrants who work and pay taxes in America the right to vote. 

Juanelvis Paulino, from the Dominican Republic, was unaware that non-foreign kids also suffered from bullying similar to how many immigrant students are bullied in American schools. After viewing the film  ‘Bully,’ Paulino gained a new perspective and he has joined various anti-bullying programs. 

After the presentations, a panel of BSIS students including Sofia Contreras from El Salvador, Oumamatou Diallo from Guinea, and Luzmilla Guillaume from Dominican Republic, responded to audience questions. 

“These students, who are all off to college in the fall, really do represent the ideals of the slogan “Be the Change”, said Laura Beson, a Government and Economics teacher at BSIS. “Each of them, through their actions demonstrate how to be an active participant in this country.”

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