Helping refugees make a fresh start

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DENVER — Trying to make a fresh start in a new country can be a challenge.

Thanks to the University of Denver’s Noble School of Hospitality Management, it doesn’t have to be. A little more than three years ago, the African Community Center “approached us and said the African Community Center is looking for a place to hold this class,” said David Corsun, director of the hospitality management school.

“We are changing the life trajectories of every refugee in the program and their families,” Corsun said.

Seeing a golden opportunity to not only help in the community but to help in the growth and education of their own students, the commercial food safety and service training was born. It’s a program to ready refugees for jobs in the food service industry.

“They’re being trained on how to get jobs in the American culture, which can be really hard,” DU student Daniela Chavez said. “And we’re learning how to be mentors, do hiring processes and how to do training and orientation.”

“To have this opportunity for my students to work with the refugees in this program is so powerful because the refugees teach my students how to be better managers,” associate professor Cheri Young said.

Without this program, many of the refugees would simply be lost. But thanks to the program at DU, they’re getting integrated into the community.

“Getting the integration piece, which is probably the most important, but then to gain the employment,” program coordinator Anthony Cherwinski said.

And with students coming from all over the world, the one-on-one time with DU students is invaluable for both sides.

“Currently in this class, we have Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Burma,” Cherwinski said.

“When you look at the population of people who are in the CFAST training class, that’s the population our students are going to go out, at hotels and restaurants, and manage,” Corsun said.

And as for the refugees in the class, they couldn’t be more grateful.

“It’s a good place to be here,” Iraq refugee Zahraa Fouad said. “It’s a good place to get a job. My university. For a good life. I wish that for me and my family too.”

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