Event encourages Somali students to attend college

On Friday, a group of 50 students and their parents sat in Minneapolis’ Somali Education Center discussing their future over coffee and chocolate-chip cookies.

There wasn’t a bare patch of white stucco in the room. The walls were covered with educational enrichment in posterboard form.

Between the intricately drawn posters of math equations and plant life stages, the room was full of dozens of hand-drawn sayings, such as: “Education finds truth,” and “Knowledge will set you free.”

These phrases were the kinds of thoughts the organizers tried to pass to students as college recruiters and speakers emphasized the importance of a college education to Somali students.

Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the United States, and some Somali students have difficulties other students don’t have to face, said Mahamoud Wardere, one of the event’s organizers.

“One of the biggest challenges is the language, but also the culture,” he said.

“The message we want to portray is that we want our youth to succeed Ö The only way to succeed in life is through education.”

Activities at the event were intended to guide and motivate students to pursue a college education, he said.

College recruiters from Minneapolis Community and Technical College and the University talked to students at the event.

A booth at the event offered information about programs at the center.

“We’re here to tell people about our after-school programs, summer programs and adult-education classes,” said Brianna Deutsch, youth coordinator and volunteer coordinator of the center.

The center offers homework help for students as well as classes in English and math.

“I hope to get the community involved and excited about education,” Deutsch said.

Speakers at the event emphasized the importance of education.

Speakers at the event included Siad Gelle, Owatonna, Minn., city human rights commissioner, and Thandiwe Peebles, superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools.

“You better have a mission, you better have a dream, or you will get lost,” Peebles said to the audience.

“I am very concerned about their children not getting the education they need,” Peebles said. “I wanted to come here tonight to lend my support for what needs to be done.”

Wardere said he wants to set up a celebration for area Somali students who have recently graduated from college.