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Refugees ask Utah Governor for continued support on SLCC campus

Utah Governor Gary Herbert and First Lady Jeanette Herbert on Tuesday visited Salt Lake Community College’s Meadowbrook Campus, which is home to the Utah Refugee Education and Training Center and where they heard about what the center has done for refugees so far. Many refugees told Herbert that the center is like a second home, that it connects them with employers, has resources to help them learn English, and provides a place to gain the skills and education they need to get jobs and pursue a better life.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert and First Lady Jeanette pose for a group shot.

“Your stories are impressive,” Herbert told refugees at the center. “We follow what’s taking place here, and on behalf of the three million people of Utah, we want you to know that you’re welcome. We’re honored to have you here. We’re glad you somehow have chosen Utah as your home.”

Utah is home to an estimated 60,000 refugees from around the world. Many seek help with assimilating into the Utah job market and culture through the center, which represents a partnership between higher education, the private sector and state government, including the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert listens to refugees' stories.

Refugee and SLCC student Zakiya Ali called the center “home,” where there are people who can help in a variety of ways. “You have people to help you understand life here,” she said. “The culture and society is different.” Refugees, she added, can use translators at the center to help them feel more “comfortable and confident” so that they’ll take a “chance” to get a job and “become part of society.”

Community activist Pamela Atkinson reminded Herbert about his first inauguration speech when he spoke of the importance of public and private partnerships. She called the success of the center the “epitome” of that kind of partnership. “I would like to say how enormously proud we are of you,” she told refugees. “You have enriched our lives. You have shared your culture with us, and we have learned so much from you. And we are glad in some small way to pay back a little of what you have given us under the leadership of Governor Herbert, whose heart is great. And he asks how are refugees are doing—more than once a year.”

SLCC student and refugee Zakiya Ali talks to Governor Gary Herbert.

As the governor and his wife toured parts of the SLCC campus and refugee center, they learned about the resources available to refugees. SLCC President Deneece G. Huftalin talked briefly about programs at the campus like composites, warehousing and aerospace that are available for refugees.

Herbert remarked that the center is a place for refugees to gather, learn and improve their lives. “It’s the helping hand up, not just a helping hand,” he said. “The work ethic you bring is certainly welcome here in Utah. We want to help you help yourself. We promise you here in Utah that you will have opportunities. We’re just honored here to have you as part of Utah. You add a significant blessing to our community with your presence. We will come back more than once a year.”

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