Understanding the Refugee and Immigrant Experience


Refugees, Educators, and Legal Experts Discuss the Refugee Experience

On March 6, 2018, Bridges to Academic Success, along with CASE and the Ph.D. program in Urban Education hosted a panel discussion highlighting stories and perspectives of current and former refugees, school-based educators and legal experts.

Watch the video of the Panel Discussion on the left. Panelists discuss the challenges many immigrant students face and share the kinds of supports that schools are putting into place to advocate for refugee and immigrant communities in these turbulent times.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Lisa Auslander, the PI/Project Director of Bridges to Academic Success, and co-organized with Dr. Tatyana Kleyn, Associate Professor & Director of Programs in Bilingual Education & TESOL at The City College of NY.


Abdul Alargha

Abdul Alargha grew up in Syria and was a successful businessman in Damascus. After starting a non-profit to help women and children who were widowed and orphaned during the war in Syria, he became a target of the Assad regime and had to flee the country immediately with very few possessions. His wife Rana fled separately with their three children. They moved through the Middle East as refugees for two years. They were separated, and at times homeless, trying to make their way to the U.S. Eventually, Abdul was granted asylum in the U.S. He reunited with his family and settled in New Jersey.

Bnyad Sharef

Bnyad Sharef is an activist who advocates for refugee and immigrant rights and for a more harmonious, peaceful, and prosperous world free of discrimination and injustice. Bnyad was granted Special Immigrant Visas because of his father’s work as a translator for the U.S. government in Iraq. As a consequence of the 2016 “travel ban,” Bnyad’s family was sent back to Iraq while attempting to immigrate. After much advocacy, they were allowed to enter the U.S., arriving in Tennessee in 2017. Bnyad currently works for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

Stephanie Delia

Stephanie Delia is the managing attorney of City Council Services at CUNY Citizenship Now, City College Immigration Center. She joined the organization in 2012 and has been making a concerted effort to address the immigration needs of New York residents since then. After graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Stephanie earned her J.D from Western Michigan University’s School of Law in 2010 and was admitted to practice law in NY State in 2011. Prior to working with Citizenship Now, Stephanie interned with the Queens District Attorney’s Office and worked in the corporate sector for two years before deciding to make a career change and go into a field that would give her the opportunity to do what she loves; helping families stay together. Stephanie loves practicing immigration law and is grateful for the opportunity to be able to earn a living doing what she loves.

Berena Cabarcas

Berena Cabarcas is the founding principal of International Community High School sponsored by the International Network for Public Schools, whose mission is to provide recent immigrant teens new to the English language with high quality instruction. Since opening the International Community High School doors in 2006, Berena has been driven by one essential question, “How does a small high school in the South Bronx for new English Language Learners effectively serve students and families?” Although complex responses continue to evolve, a consistent twelve-year answer has included finding effective strategies which accelerate academic English language acquisition for students enrolling in schools with highly variable literacy levels in their home language.

Gloria Jaramillo

Gloria Jaramillo is a school counselor at Brentwood High School, also a Bridges partner school. She has been serving English Language Learners, refugees, and immigrant students for the past 16 years in both Long Island and New York City. She brings her unique perspective to serving students from this population, particularly in the area of mental health and social-emotional support.