Graduation — it’s an event as American as apple pie.
And graduate Abdulsalam Hindawi looked just as American as the thousands of other students decked out in caps and gowns at the University of Colorado Boulder this month.
But his back-story is far from typical.
Hindawi is an asylum-seeker from Syria, who — despite the challenges of having fled his war-torn homeland — managed to achieve what fewer than 1 in 10 Americans have achieved: he earned a master’s degree.
The focus of Hindawi’s research might not surprise you: Refugee Studies.
“I feel like I’m looking at my own past, but with an academic lens,” he said in his speech to his fellow graduates.
Hindawi fled Syria when the war broke out six years ago, spending time in Turkey before applying to and getting accepted to the graduate program at CU.
His mother still lives in Aleppo – the city that’s become synonymous with the civil war that’s estimated to have killed close to half a million people.
Degree in hand, but tough road ahead
Hindawi had a smile on his face throughout graduation day, but his arduous journey is not over. He has his advanced degree in hand, but the documents he really needs — citizenship papers — have not yet been granted.
His speech, however, didn’t focus on his plight as a Syrian asylum-seeker under an administration that’s not friendly towards Syrians or towards refugees.
Instead, Hindawi took to the podium to celebrate the value of a liberal arts education, saying the study of topics like geography can help to bridge the political gaps that divide human beings: “We learned that knowledge isn’t only about books, it’s the knowledge of ourselves and each other as individuals, without discrimination.”
One of the main resources for homeless youth in Denver is shut down, for now anyway.
The Urban Peak drop-in Center at 21st and Stout closed its doors on April 28th, citing security concerns.
An incident in late April in which youth from the center and other people gathered nearby interfered in an arrest “escalated to a very dangerous level,” according to Urban Peak Interim CEO Malinda Anderson.
Urban Peak is now working closely with city officials to re-open the drop-in center as soon as possible. A round-table discussion to address options is scheduled with city officials, Denver Police, Councilwoman Deborah Ortega, Councilman Albus Brooks, and others on May 31.
Urban Peak’s other services — which include an overnight shelter and street outreach — are still up and running. And the drop-in center has been able to let some youth into the building by appointment to access much-needed services, which include shower and laundry facilities and healthcare referrals.
Anderson said that, although security was the primary reason for closing the drop-in center, Urban Peak – along with many similar service providers in Denver – is suffering from a lack of resources. “Every provider of services for the homeless in Denver is feeling the strain of there being far more need than capacity, and an increased level of intensity… on the streets,” she told us in an e-mail.
Disappointing development follows big win for Urban Peak
The shut-down of the drop-in center follows a high-profile success for advocates of Urban Peak. In March, rookie Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver passed House Bill 1055, which creates an income tax check-off to support the charity.
The bill had strong bipartisan support: Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, guided the bill through the Senate (Urban Peak also operates programs in Colorado Springs).
The legislation will put Urban Peak on state income tax returns for up to five years. But the state allows only 20 charities on the form at a time, and Urban Peak has to wait in line for a spot – so any financial windfall from the bill won’t be felt for several years.
Herod said the sudden closure of the drop-in center highlights, more than ever, the need for increased donations to the youth program
“There’s a lot of negativity out there these days, leaving a lot of people unsafe and on the margins – our homeless youth are vulnerable, please give to Urban Peak today,” she said in a phone interview with Colorado Politics.
Marijuana activist and lawyer Rob Corry took to the stage at the 4/20 rally in Civic Center and declared that Denver is home to the “biggest 4/20 rally in the world.” That may have been the case at the height of the cannabis legalization movement, but it’s hard to imagine that was true Thursday. Rain […]
If you’re headed to Denver’s Civic Center park this afternoon, be prepared for a Rocky Mountain contact high. Today marks the fourth 4-20 marijuana festival since Colorado launched the world’s first legal retail market for the drug. The Denver celebration generally draws thousands of pot enthusiasts, the highlight of what, for many, is a week-long […]
Gov. John Hickenlooper says he’s confident legislators’ delays in coming up with a state budget won’t push him to call a special session. In an exclusive interview with Colorado Politics, the governor also chimed in with his thoughts on the race to take over his seat when he’s term-limited out of office in 2018, saying he […]
Malebogo Molefhe is a profile in courage. An activist against gender-based violence, she came to Colorado on the heels of a trip to Washington, D.C., to accept an International Woman of Courage award. We met up with the Botswanan in Denver’s Botanic Gardens, where she told us about her decade of work teaching women and girls to […]
Have you ever received a medical bill — even though you hadn’t been to the doctor or a hospital in a year? Or opened a letter from a collection agency regarding a debt you had paid off months earlier? If that’s happened to you, you’re not alone. A new report by the Colorado Public Interest Research […]
With Donald Trump in the White House and on Twitter, it was easy to overlook some of the other stories in the world — including the civil war in Syria. But this week the news out of Syria was sufficiently tragic to make even the frenetic U.S. news cycle stop and take note. Dozens of Syrians, including children, […]
After our Peter Marcus checked in with the British consul general for our region Thursday, in the interest of geopolitical balance — and in honor of St. Patrick’s Day — it seemed natural to also reach out to the Irish Consul General in Denver for a chat. To be precise, the office here in the Mile […]
If you were to believe everything he said, we should all pack up and move to Russia. The Consul General of the Russian Federation gave a talk in Denver on Thursday morning, and he spoke at length about how the Russian economy is now free of Soviet debt and and how it bounced back quickly from […]