Two students sit at a computer desk.

March 3, 2020

What started out as a project on immigrants and refugees in Fargo Moorhead became a beautiful study in human connection, the similarities and differences we have as human beings and the unique things that make us who we are. Concordia College students enrolled in the Inquiry Program recently visited Moorhead Adult Basic Education (ABE) to connect with students with a very different story from their own.

Moorhead Adult Basic Education (ABE), a program of Moorhead Community Education, offers classes to adult students, whose educational skills are below the 12th grade level in any of the basic academic areas of reading, math, writing or speaking English. The program has a rich diversity of students representing 29 countries and speaking over 22 languages.

Concordia professor Lisa Twomey’s goal is for students to not just read stories of people immigrating to the U.S. from all over the world, but to meet real people and understand these are not just statistics and stories far removed from us. “The reality is that we have a wonderfully varied and diverse community, but it is often hard to get to know someone who looks different from you or has a very different past. This partnership is a way for Concordia students to get to know someone who has immigrated to our country, to hear their stories in person, to learn from them,” said Twomey.

Students partnered across programs for connection and the exchange of stories. Concordia students came with a poster of information about themselves. They shared where they are from, information about their families, how they came to be in the Fargo Moorhead area and what the transition to college and Minnesota winters has been like for them. As they shared their stories with ABE students, they asked ABE students the same questions and created posters together about the ABE student and his or her unique story. Many searched online for maps to be able to see where the other grew up whether that was Kenya or Boise, Idaho.

“When I see my students listening to the ABE students, nodding, smiling, laughing, sharing their own stories, I feel absolute joy. These connections help build empathy and an understanding and appreciation for what our neighbors in the community are dealing with as they adjust to life here,” commented Twomey.

Though from different countries, cultures, languages, economic and education levels and in some cases generations, the students from two very different programs built bonds and the connection of shared stories, struggles and interests.