Denver South High Students Express Dismay At Trump’s Refugee Order

Photo: South HS Refugee 1 | Student Group, Supe Cordoba - JBrundin
South High School students Colleen Campbell, Eliana Goldberg, Zahra Abdulameer and Anna Renkert. Denver Public Schools Deputy Superindendent Susanna Cordoba is seated on the right.

Some students at Denver’s South High School expressed frustration and disbelief Monday over President Trump’s recent order blocking refugees and visitors from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Their remarks came during an arranged session with Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

Trump says his executive order is not a Muslim ban, but students like Zahra Abdulameer don't see it that way.

"I fear that since he’s targeting Muslims, even though I am a citizen, he’ll find a way to target me because of my religion, you know what I mean? I just fear that’s what’s going to happen," Abdulameer said at the gathering. Her family came to the U.S. after her father was threatened for helping Americans during the war in Iraq.

Photo: South HS Refugee 3 | Student Zahra Abdulameer - JBrundin
South High School student Zahra Abdulameer.

An American student, Frances Calvin, said, it's "heart breaking and painful to think about people being in another place and needing human decency and needing someone to help, but we aren’t."

The student population at South High represents more than 70 countries. Principal Jennifer Hanson estimates 100 students have family members or know someone directly affected by the president's executive order. The school has 400 refugee students.

Sara Gebretsadik, who says he came to the U.S. in the fourth grade from Ethiopia, is a member of International Rebel Buddies, a school group which helps newcomers integrate into the school and American culture.

“I want everybody to be given the same opportunity that I’ve been given and that’s why this [executive order] is very upsetting," she said. "Everybody deserves the opportunity to shine and be the best person they can be and that being taking away from them is very upsetting.”

Photo: South HS Refugee 2 | Student Shambel Zeru w/ Supe Boasberg, Chari Rowe- JBrundin
Superintendent Tom Boasberg and DPS Board Chair Anne Rowe listen to South student Shambel Zeru. To his right is student Sadia Mohammed.

South HS senior Shambel Zeru was in a refugee camp for four years in Ethiopia.

“Safety is what brought me here," he said. "If I had a safe place to live and to go to school, I wouldn’t leave my country. If I didn’t have to walk three to four hours to go to school, I wouldn’t come here. You as American citizens understood my problems and my struggles. You understood that it wasn’t easy for me and my brother to live in the camp without mom and dad. That’s why you welcomed me and my brother with your happy and beautiful faces. Right now I just plead you to do the same thing you did [for me] to refugees who are hoping to come here.”

South High is home to one of six DPS “newcomer centers.” The program helps refugees and others who have come to the U.S. with limited or interrupted education before they transition into regular classrooms. The student population at South represents more than 70 countries from around the world.