The North Side Learning Center is a place for creativity and making connections for many Syracuse refugees.

Six students participated in the Syracuse University Narratio Fellowship program to help them transition to college and conquer daily struggles, all through storytelling.

Twenty-year-old Isho Adan came to Syracuse 11 years ago from Somalia. Nineteen-year-old Abigail Nganga arrived just nine months ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo, without her parents.

“It was just difficult because, imagine being separated from the people you love,” said Nganga, the Henninger High School senior. “You have that pain inside you, you miss your people, you miss your place.”

But Nganga and Adan say the five week course is helping them share their journeys through short autobiographical films.

In Nganga's video, she shares her experience about coming to the U.S. with her sister after her father was killed and mother fled for safety. She hopes it encourages people to overcome their obstacles.

Adan focuses on bullying, and wants others to be happy with themselves and know their worth.

They say the program also makes Syracuse feel like home.

“We've become like family in the program,” said Adan, the Onondaga Community College student. “I really loved it, the way we always give each other feedback [and] motivate each other.”

The Narratio Fellowship is led by SU Associate Professor Brice Nordquist and Ahmed Badr, a former Iraqi refugee and founder of
The fellows also received academic and financial counseling, but Nordquist says it’s mainly about self-expression and showing support.

“Through these stories, we hope there is some sense of self-actualization, self-reflection that can help students in their transitions, life transitions,” said Nordquist. 

Nordquist hopes it’s an eye-opening experience for the community, too.

“The students have incredibly complex lives, that they have a wide range of desires and hopes, and that they’re hardworking, resourceful, creative,” said Nordquist. “That they’re essential contributors to our city, to our region.”

These words of affirmation will inspire them to live a future that’s better than their past, and they hope their videos encourage others to do the same.

Typically, the fellows would show their work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
However, this year they will share their videos virtually.