Syrian Student Finding Success at Broward College
According to data from the Refugee Processing Center, which operates under the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, 301 Syrians arrived in Florida between October 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. Raouf Charaf was one of them.
Charaf moved from his war-torn home at 17, the age when many would be drafted for the battlefield. The South Campus student can recall how dangerous daily life could be in Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Charaf remembered receiving the news that his basketball coach was shot right outside his school. He would see bullets go through his balcony. One time his room window broke due to the explosions nearby. He says it was not uncommon for youngsters to be targeted for kidnapping and ransom
Seeking a better future than what he would have had in Syria, Charaf made the difficult decision to leave his parents and everything he knew two years ago in search of education and opportunity. He was lucky enough to secure a student visa through an embassy in Lebanon and moved to the United States to live with his brother and wife. He finished high school at Everglades High. Six months later, he applied for political asylum and received his work permit, which qualified him to attend Broward College and pay in-state tuition.
The incoming freshman felt welcome, acclimating to his surroundings and fellow classmates. A religion course evolved into more than just a requirement for Charaf. He goes as far to say Dr. Arthur Gowran’s class was the most influential he has taken since coming to the United States. The student was impacted by his professor’s thoughts on Islam, the religion Charaf belongs to. Gowran described Islam as peaceful made up of some good people. The words struck a chord and were contrary to what Charaf feels is the common perception out there. A bond formed with the two staying in contact even after the semester with discussions about the conflict in the Middle East.
Charaf excelled while in class and earned a perfect score on the final exam; the highest in the class. He juggles school while working a full-time job for a phone repair company. Above being a success story, the driven student looks to lead by example. He hopes his triumphs will inspire institutions to lend a hand to help Syrian refugees.
As he prepares for his second year at the College, Charaf’s interests have steered him to computer science. However, he hasn’t fully committed to what he wants to do just yet. Gowran encouraged Charaf to continue his studies by saying, “An education is something that can never be taken away from you, and it will enrich your life in so many disparate ways.”
Broward College, along with the State of Florida, Department of Children and Families, Refugee Services Program, sponsors Project RENEW (Refugees Entering New Enterprises and Workforce). Funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement, the comprehensive program proves English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), continuing education and vocational/workforce training for eligible refugees, asylees, Amerasians and victims of human trafficking living in Broward County. For more information, call 954-201-2677.