Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Dona and Samira Ibrahim, sisters who currently attend the University of Utah, attend the 4th annual One Refugee Conference at O.C. Tanner in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.
SALT LAKE CITY — When Arob Mandang-Belabek started his freshman year at the University of Utah, he felt very alone. It was difficult to study economics, he said, while living in Utah as a refugee from South Sudan.
“I was paying for school by myself, I was working. So it was very hard to focus on school,” he said.
But things changed after he learned about the Refugee Education Initiative, a Salt Lake nonprofit dedicated to helping refugees graduate from universities.
“It’s made me feel like I was part of a group. I wasn’t isolated,” Mandang-Belabek said. “I wouldn’t be this far in my career as a college student. They made it easy for me to focus on what’s more important.”
For the past four years, the Refugee Education Initiative has helped hundreds of young adult refugees earn college degrees. Now the organization is taking its efforts a step farther, teaming up with the global employee rewards company O.C. Tanner to start another initiative to support refugees.
Called One Refugee, the program will help former refugee students transition from earning a college education to finding career employment. The program was announced at an all-day student conference on Friday.
“There are a lot of services for refugees who come into our community in Salt Lake City,” said O.C. Tanner CEO Dave Petersen….