Social work student uses past experiences to build respect for Muslims

By Haleigh Cannalte

In working with children to help them navigate a changing society, current School of Social Work student Israa Eldeiry has found her passion, her purpose, and a way to serve her community.  

Though born in Egypt, she’s lived in Fort Collins from an early age, and has strong ties to Colorado State University. Her father received his doctoral degree from CSU, and worked as a research scientist for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Her older brother received his bachelor’s degree from CSU, and Eldeiry thought it was only natural to carry on the family tradition of service to the University and the greater Fort Collins community.

That commitment has remained strong through challenges of discrimination. “I’m Muslim-American,” said Eldeiry, “and I’ve experienced discrimination because of my faith. One time in high school, a boy came up to me in the lunchroom, saying something about Iraqi terrorists.”

“My friend encouraged me to go over to him and really stand up for myself,” Eldeiry said. “I was able to talk with him about about why he said that, how much it hurt me, and why it wasn’t okay. It was a really empowering moment for me.”

When Eldeiry came to CSU, she served as president of the Muslim Students Association for three years, working to connect Muslim and non-Muslim students to causes in the greater Fort Collins Muslim community, and helping promote Muslim students’ needs at the University.

“The Asian Pacific American Cultural Center was really great,” Eldeiry said. “They reached out many times and offered resources for students and staff–like for people who wanted a private room to say their prayers.” She now serves on the School of Social Work’s Diversity and Human Rights Committee.

Her early experiences dealing with discrimination sparked her desire to work with youth on issues of identity. Pursuing her B.S.W. allows Eldeiry to transform her passions into preparation for generalist practice in social work, realizing aspects of the program promoting human rights and individual, community, and global well-being.

She is currently doing her field education internship at Putnam Elementary School of Science, working with faculty and staff to serve students, especially members of Fort Collins’ growing Muslim community. Eldeiry hopes to foster inter-faith and intercultural understanding, promoting acceptance and respect in some of Fort Collins’ youngest citizens.

“I just really love kids, and my mind is just blown by how they grow,” said Eldeiry. “I want to be a mentor for youth, including girls who identify as Muslim like me. I want to help them learn how to navigate their community.” After graduation, Eldeiry plans to gain work experience in the social work field with children for a year before pursuing her M.S.W.

The School of Social Work is a part of Colorado State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences.