Gediya Ramazani regularly tells the refugees at the Global Refugee Center in Greeley to not give up. Not giving up is something she knows about.
Ramazani’s parents fled war-torn Somalia in 1992 and ended up in a Kenyan refugee camp, where she was born three years later. The family moved to Colorado when she was 10, and she initially struggled — in middle school one of her classmates grabbed the hijab off her head and told her to go back to her own country.
“Students glued me to a chair as well,” Ramazani recalls. “The kids were really bad there. It got better as I learned English, because I learned how to defend myself. My teachers told me to ignore bullies.”
She got good grades at North High School, excelling in math and science, and when she first arrived at CSU she wanted to become a nurse. But she struggled academically her freshman year and seriously considered dropping out. Her parents urged her to not give up, because she was the first in their family to attend college. Ramazani persevered.
Now she’s graduating with a bachelor’s degree in social work, and spent this semester doing her required fieldwork hours as a community navigator at the Global Refugee Center, where Ramazani helps others who are in the same position she was in when her family moved to the United States.
“We kind of struggled when we came here, we didn’t know how to take the bus or go grocery shopping,” she says. “So I wanted to help incoming refugees get settled and navigate their lives.”
Helping other refugees
Ramazani helps refugees with things such as applying for citizenship (she is now a U.S. citizen herself), paying bills, registering for English classes and obtaining donated items like diapers and clothing. She’s also helped deliver services provided at health fairs and a women’s clinic.
“I feel good that I’m helping people who need it, who are in this new society and trying to do things by themselves,” she says. “I’m not just doing it to get my required hours in — I actually like it, I want to do it, it feels good.”
Ramazani plans to pursue her master’s in social work at CSU after graduation, and wants to continue volunteering to help refugees. Eventually she sees herself working for the United Nations, helping prepare refugees in Africa for the transition to America.
The only possible downside? She’s set a high bar for her nine younger brothers and sisters.
“My parents are really proud that I’m doing good things for the community,” Ramazani says. “Now they think that’s what all my siblings should do.”