Gala and Book Launch - Green Card Voices


Green Card Voices 11th Annual Gala: Becoming Neighbors will be held at the International Institute of Minnesota in Saint Paul on May 18th from 6-9 PM.

Join us for another year of celebrating immigrants’ stories and the discussion of our latest book:  My City Was a Sparkling Jewel: Voices of Newcomer Youth from Afghanistan.  Attendees will listen to live stories from the storytellers and and learn about the intentional process of creating a book about youth from many different ethnic groups from one country and the opportunity to engage in mutual story sharing through Story Stitch. 

About the BOOK

My City Was a Sparkling Jewel: Voices of Newcomer Youth from Afghanistan is the latest installment of our youth voices series that includes the journeys of nineteen young men and eleven young women whose lives were all radically disrupted by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Their stories share the challenges faced, opportunities grasped, and dreams these youth had, and still have, for themselves, and for the families and friends they left behind.

While the future of Afghanistan and its youth in the United States is still uncertain, these first-person stories illuminate the harrowing contours of the unjust displacement these young people experienced and bear witness to the early days of their resettlement in the United States.

About the Storytellers

Using a trauma-informed approach to storytelling, Green Card Voices and its partners from diasporic Afghanistan, carefully collected first-person accounts of the diverse journeys of nineteen young men and eleven young women on their path to resettling in Minnesota. These stories were gathered at the speed of trust using a mix of handwritten essays and oral storytelling in English, Dari/Farsi, and Pashto. The storytellers, ages fifteen to twenty, come from various ethnic groups—Pashtun, Hazara, Tajik—so their stories detail a wide range of experiences.

About the PARTNERS

Thirty storytellers ages fifteen to twenty, nineteen young men and eleven young women, attend three major high schools in Minneapolis and St. Paul: Thomas Edison High School, South High School, and LEAP High School. Of the three high schools we partnered with, Edison High School currently holds the largest number of Afghan students in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) with a total of 27, while South High School has 11 Afghan students (as of January 2023). LEAP High School currently hosts 21 Afghan students, which is the largest number of Afghan students in Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS).

Thomas Edison High School (Edison), more commonly referred to as Edison, is the only public high school in the Northeast community of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was named after the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison. Located in the Holland neighborhood, the school opened in 1922 and as can be found on Edison’s school website: “Through innovation and personal empowerment, the Edison community will partner with our students, igniting a passion for lifelong learning, instilling the ideals of international mindedness, leading our students to succeed at Edison and beyond.” 

Our educational partners were Ms. Tara Kennedy and Ms. Katie Murphy-Olsen who were partners with us on our previous publications: Green Card Youth Voices: Minneapolis and children’s bilingual series Our Stories Carried Us Here: Belonging in America and Mexico, Vol.1.

South High School (South/SHS) is a four-year comprehensive public high school in the Corcoran neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A member of the Minneapolis Public Schools district, it is Minneapolis’s oldest and largest public high school. It is distinguished for its exemplary academic programs, dynamic theater and music productions, studies in engineering, visual arts and world languages! South embraces all students and is proud of our diversity. Our educator partner at South was Angelica Torralba-Olague, who started off the Educator Pathways Program at SHS that aims to diversify the teaching force by exposing students to educator pathways/ experiences while they’re still in highschool. South is committed to educating students and setting them up for success as lifelong learners and strives to maintain a positive school wide culture, a climate of respect and an enlightened awareness of and commitment to the community.

LEAP High School is an Area Learning Center high school for English Language Learners (ELL) that is part of the Saint Paul Public Schools system in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was founded in autumn of 1994 by Jeff Dufresne and Sandra Hall as a high school for newly arrived immigrants to the city of Saint Paul. As can be found on their school website: “LEAP High School is dedicated to serving students who are new to the United States and who are learning English while earning a high school diploma. As an alternative high school, LEAP High School enrolls English Learner (EL) students up to age 21, and at all levels 1-4, and provides an educational opportunity for students whose needs often do not match the offerings provided in traditional high schools.”

We partnered with LEAP high school for a previous book project: Green Card Youth Voices: St. Paul and were excited to partner with them again for My City was a Sparkling Jewel. Our educational partners there were Joe Baumgart and Cynthia Henning. These educators have shown throughout the book making process, both current and former, that they are committed to ensuring that their students’ stories are published and shared.

This week LEAP High School hosted the Green Card Voices team as they recorded the stories of some of our students from Afghanistan. These students went into this project with a range of feelings: trepidation, skepticism, excitement; though we prepared them as best we could, they still did not fully know what to expect.  Each of the students I spoke with after the recording had the same positive reactions, “it was great!”, “very good!”, “so fun!”.  One young woman in particular loved the experience and was absolutely glowing with what I can only imagine was a mix of joy, relief, and pride in having told her story.  It was apparent to me that this opportunity was as therapeutic to the students as it will be enlightening to readers. 

– Joe Baumgart, Teacher, LEAP High School

In October, our South High Afghan students learned about an opportunity to tell their refugee story with Green Card Youth Voices. The organization provided free copies of previous GCV books to our eleven Afghan students, and they read stories written by high school authors from Madison, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Fargo and Upstate New York. Inspired by these authors, the students met with me to get support in writing their stories. Some were nervous, others worried but all were excited for the opportunity to tell their stories. On recording day in November, they met other future authors, heard their stories and they enjoyed themselves! It was a reflective experience, one that bonded them and made them closer. The experience also connected them to Afghan Cultural Society who is now providing coaching for our students at school. The partnership between GCV, ACS and South High school has been critical to their well-being as well as getting their voices heard. The students have been grateful to the connections and support as a result of the book project.  

– Angelica Torralba-Olague, Teacher & Coordinator, South High School

When our LEAP Afghan students were presented the opportunity to participate in a new Green Card Youth Voices oral storytelling project, we jumped at the chance recognizing the positive impact former LEAP students experienced with GCV. At the beginning, our Afghan students were unsure what to think. Some were surprised and excited that other people would want to hear their stories while others were frightened about the safety of their family members still living in Afghanistan. As the students were able to look through copies of previous GCV editions, a few students were very excited to recognize a friend now living in Atlanta. After a whirlwind month of meetings and excitement, seven LEAP Afghan students recorded their stories. The success of this project would not have been possible without the coordination of Green Card Voices and the Afghan Cultural Society which provided invaluable support. Last week, I previewed the book cover with our participants and was met with huge smiles and “That’s Me!” I am certain that the  positive impact for our students will be long lasting, and that anyone who reads their stories will be better able to understand and appreciate our students’ experiences.

– Cynthia Henning, ELL teacher, LEAP High School

Afghan immigrants at Edison High School were invited to share their stories, ranging from friendships to food, to school experiences to celebrations through this project at the very beginning of this school year (2022-23)! While the youth had been in Minneapolis for less than a year, experiences were shared through speaking and writing, validating Dari and Pashto,  as well as supporting English language development. Students found engagement with past Green Card Voices multimedia projects very helpful through the process. Partnering with Green Card Voices again for another meaningful, and relevant, project reminded me of the importance of community collaboration for our young people. Contributions from Edison High School were both imaginable and made viable because of Tara Kennedy’s tireless and constant communication with Green Card Voices staff. 

– Katie Murphy-Olsen, Teacher of English as an Additional Language, Edison High School

These students started arriving in my classroom in November 2021. They were joyful, boisterous, and curious! They are such a delight to work with! I wanted to know more about their lives and I knew others would too. This book grew from conversations with Tea and Katie about the need for these stories to be told. My students are remarkable! These narratives serve as a window into their experiences.

– Tara Kennedy, EL Teacher, Edison High School