Utah Refugees Celebrate College Graduation

May 17, 2021, 11:54 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A group of 69 refugees in Utah celebrated a major milestone — their college graduations — and they all credited the local non-profit, One Refugee, as getting them across the finish line.

The students met Monday night for a celebration dinner.

“It’s been crazy with the pandemic,” said Raymon Burton, a spokesperson for the non-profit. “But our students are resilient and a lot of them have been through pandemics in their past.”

The refugees all came to the U.S. from war-torn countries and most of them are first-time college graduates in their families.

“It feels unreal,” said Fabiola Kamberi.

For Kamberi, making her parents’ sacrifice of fleeing Kosovo during the 1999 war with Serbia was important.

“I was like, ‘I’ve got to make my family proud,'” she said. “I’ve got to make their sacrifice worth it. They brought me here for a reason, I’ve got to make that reason worth it.”

The One Refugee Program, funded primarily by Roger and Sara Boyer, aims to help refugee students with tuition, fees and mentoring.

“I was a business student, and being in the business school with my background, I always just kind of felt out of place,” said Kamberi.

One Refugee helped fill the gap.

“I found programs that were for students like me,” she said.

For her, it was the difference she needed to keep working hard, and eventually, get her bachelor’s degree — making her the first in her family to graduate from college.

Since 2014, the non-profit has helped more than 600 students, but this year’s graduates total was their largest group yet.

Keshab Adikari and his family came to the United States from Butan in 2008. He graduated in late 2020 and said he’s proud of the work he’s doing as a nurse.

“I am the first person to get an advanced degree in the family,” he said. “Going through all this pandemic and helping all these people get through the pandemic is awesome.”

Kamberi has a quote she lives by and believes One Refugee is the reason she is where she is today.

“Lift as you rise. Help those behind you who need it.”

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Utah Refugees Celebrate College Graduation