Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica, New York, has been a resettlement partner of the Providence Granola Project and promotes our granola at their events. Our bars were the snack of choice at a recent refugee soccer tournament the MVRCR hosted, and Providence Granola was also offered at their World Refugee Day celebration, featuring a naturalization ceremony, on June 18.

Needless to say, we appreciate them.

Utica’s Observer-Dispatch, for its part, appreciates the young people who pass through the resettlement agency. The Observer-Dispatch recently published a thoughtful editorial on refugees graduating from local high schools.

“We shouldn’t need reminding, but we do,” the paper said. “The reminder is that refugees and immigrants are what make our nation strong. We need reminding that the fabric that covers our community is one stitched together with threads of varied types. The diversity gives the fabric its strength.

“We need reminding that many of our immigrants and refugees came here with little more than the clothes on their backs. They came with no knowledge of the language; they had no job, no place to live. Many left loved ones behind that they will never see again. …

”If you look closely at those refugees and immigrants, you’ll see some familiar faces. Your grandparents, perhaps. Or your great-grandparents.”

Utica recognizes the strength and determination of refugees.

Utica recognizes the strength and determination of refugees.

The writer continues, “Refugee students regularly appear among the Top 10 at Utica’s Thomas R. Proctor High School. Last year, and in 2013, half of the Top 10 students were refugees; in 2014, it was 20 percent. …

“Among the 25 are Ludmela Ruseva, Kay Klo and Wei Huang.

“Ludmela is a senior at Frankfort-Schuyler High School and came here with her parents in 1997 from the Ukraine seeking religious asylum. Kay, a Thomas R. Proctor senior, was born in Burma and arrived as a refugee in 2004. She’ll be the first in her family to graduate high school and head off to college. Wei came to the U.S. from China, living in Atlanta, Georgia, before moving to the Mohawk Valley. … Teachers will tell you that refugee students are a blessing to have in class.”

The US State Department ensures that those who apply for refugee status go through a thorough screening process, often one that takes two years. It assigns the refugees to parts of the country that may be very different from what they are used to. (Think Somali refugees from Africa in snowy Lewiston, Maine.) But the immigrants are excited to be here and are determined to make a go of it.

Anyone who has lived in upstate New York knows that the winters can be daunting, so the student from Burma, in particular, had an extra adjustment to make in Utica. Sounds like that didn’t keep her from being a Teen All-Star.

More on the students here.

Caroline Ellis of submitted this post.

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