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Service-learning student leader supports refugee community during COVID-19 crisis

two people wearing face masks
Tecle Gebremicheal, right, poses with his wife, both in face masks.

The Boise State Service-Learning Program is built around faculty, students and non-profit organizations to connect classroom learning with hands-on community engagement. One key to the program’s success is hiring experienced students into support positions, which act as liaisons between students and the community partners.

While face-to-face service-learning may be on hold, these student leaders still are actively supporting their partner organizations in a number of ways.

Political science major Tecle Gebremicheal quickly pivoted from his normal duties and is working to translate information about COVID-19 and coordinating other outreach for the International Rescue Committee – an organization which provides opportunities for refugees and other groups seeking citizenship to thrive in the U.S.

“At times like this, information can mean the difference between life and death,” he said. “How about those who lack access to information for various reasons? What’s our role to bridge that gap?”

Gebremichael, a former refugee of Ethiopia himself (as well as a former Boise City Council candidate), is working with the International Rescue Committee to address this by providing updates on COVID-19 translated into fourteen languages for the Treasure Valley refugee population.

Tecle Gebremichael
Tecle poses without a face mask.

“We took the governor’s stay-at-home order and Boise Mayor McLean’s orders and explained them in simpler terms,” he said. “Many people didn’t understand what a stay-at-home order was, or what essential and nonessential services meant.”

Additional support efforts include creating short informational videos in multiple languages, collecting grocery gift card donations and answering questions on unemployment benefits and housing/rent payments through social media.

The Service-Learning Program currently is recruiting other students to work at a variety of nonprofit organizations in student leader positions.

“It is amazing to see the community impact Tecle’s work has had,” said Kara Brascia, director of the program. “What these student leaders do for our partners as representatives of Boise State is remarkable.”

– By George Thoma