Ikram Zetraoui, 18, was a freshman in high school when she moved to Denver from Morocco to live with her older sister. A high school senior, she hopes to study psychology and criminology to become …
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Ikram Zetraoui, 18, was a freshman in high school when she moved to Denver from Morocco to live with her older sister. A high school senior, she hopes to study psychology and criminology to become a detective or psychiatrist. She has always been interested, she says, in trying to understand how people view themselves. Rokaya Abdulameer, 17, emigrated from Iraq in 2009 to seek shelter from the war. Being from another culture, she says, has taught her not to judge. Also a senior, she plans to study business and pre-law in college next year.
Ikram: "When I speak my language, people try to protect themselves and they scoot away from where I am. It happened once on a bus, but I didn’t know anyone there, so I didn’t know how to react. One time it happened at school and another girl stood up for me. It’s nice to have allies and people who are going to stand up for you and tell you how to react in that situation because I wouldn’t know what to do.
"Anything that’s attached to human services — serving food, giving them their needs — anything that is serving them makes me happy. Seeing people in front of me suffer and going through the same kind of situation, it made me realize that so many people are ungrateful for things they have. And people who don’t have anything are so grateful for what they do have. I just try to find a balance between those two kinds of people."
Rokaya: "Not living in Iraq made it hard to understand where my culture came from, but my parents have taught me everything — our Arabic language, our traditions. I love the people of my culture and everything, really. The food, the dancing, the celebrations.
Coming here, "I didn't know that so many cultures could exist in one place because I grew up around people who followed the same values and traditions as me and my family."
Ikram: “People see immigrants as people who are trying to steal their jobs and trying to get their salaries ... Muslim people are seen as ... not on the same level of humanity ... At the end of the day, if we really look into America's deepest economy, we see it's based on immigrants. I would like other people to see immigrants as how they see themselves.
“If I had a chance to change the world, I would probably change how people are viewed ... Why is there so much hatred ... and so many crimes? ... I'm interested in human services, and that's a way for me to help other people. I'm thinking about doing that as volunteering. I feel like I'm pretty good with other people ... helping people in need — coming together as one, basically."
Rokaya: “The biggest problem right now is that people think everyone from the Middle East is a terrorist and all that, so I guess that's the biggest thing that I would want to change ... People are not like that, you just have to get to know them.
“My biggest goal is to go back and use the opportunities I've had in America to help however I can. I was thinking about it, and there's a lack of education there. I think that's my biggest goal is to just go back to the schools in need and just help out. I have pretty good English — maybe I can teach them there.”
Ikram: “If we all come as one collective mind, I feel like we would be so much more successful than just looking back on our mistakes and blaming it on other people and other countries. We need to forget all of this hate that is between us.”
Rokaya: “We are (the) future and this generation has a lot to offer. Knowing different perspectives helps us understand the world more. I think I bring a different perspective, which is why people should listen to everyone, especially those who are from different cultures. Just don't judge someone by their cover. I think that's the biggest thing I've learned — just to not judge someone if you don't know them.”
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