As students walk through the halls of Cathedral High School, they are likely to encounter people they have never seen before.
In partnership with Unitecloud, the St. Cloud school is hosting the “Green Card Voices” exhibit through the end of the month. As they go about their day, students see banners featuring the stories of first-generation immigrants and refugees who live and work in central Minnesota.
The exhibit features 18 individual 8-foot full-color banners displaying highlights of each person’s unique story. Each banner includes a portrait, the person’s 200-word biography, a quote from him or her and a QR code. Viewers can scan the code with a smartphone to watch the person tell their own story.
“This is our way of helping to educate these kids and give them that exposure and understanding that there may be things we don’t know about other people,” said James Lalley, dean of students at Cathedral. “Everyone has a story, and these are important stories for kids to hear and understand.”
Being inclusive and accepting are values the Catholic school strives to instill in their students, Lalley said.
“I think these are really valuable,” said Anna Penticuff, a senior. “It’s a way to look into our communities when we don’t necessarily see refugees in our school.”
The students at Cathedral don’t have much exposure to different cultures, Lalley said, but this exhibit is a way to show them who is in their community. The exhibit features stories from 12 different countries of origin.
One of the banners features the story of Hussein Mohamud, who was born in southern Somalia and spent 20 years living in a Kenyan refugee camp. He was selected for resettlement in Nashville, Tennessee, and found a job working for Dell and later a Catholic Charities agency. He now works as a freelance journalist in St. Cloud focusing on “giving a voice to the voiceless,” using his storytelling skills to change negative perceptions many people have about refugees.
“These are people who are making huge contributions and differences, and they all have stories to tell,” he said. “We thought it was valuable to bring this in for students because we want to educate them not just as students, but as people. Our job is to make sure when they leave here, they’re ready for just being citizens and being people of the world.”
“Green Card Voices” began as a touring photo exhibit in the Twin Cities in 2013. As the exhibit evolved, four additional exhibits were added, including in St. Cloud; Willmar; Fargo, North Dakota; and one in Atlanta, Georgia, that is in production, according to Unitecloud’s website.
“It’s very important to see that there are people that go through a lot to get to this country,” said Sofiia Fursa, a senior. “It’s not so easy and they just try to survive, but many people overlook them and criticize them. So, it’s valuable to know the stories of people with different backgrounds.”
For more information about the “Green Card Voices” exhibit, visit greencardvoices.com or unitecloud.org.