Sawsan & Kelsey

  • Sawsan & Kelsey, Lincoln, NE

“I can hang out with anybody as long as they aren’t bad influences. This is one thing I love about America.  There is a lot of freedom to interact with anybody you want to, regardless of background or religion. In the Middle East it is much more sensitive, particularly recently.”

Sawsan’s story:

I came from Turkey but grew up in Iraq. My family came to the United States in 2010 because we didn’t have much freedom in Iraq. We just needed somewhere away from the Middle East. I learned some English in Iraq but most of it I learned here in Nebraska. This May I am graduating from Lincoln High.

In Iraq there are different religions and whichever religion you associate with often influences who you hang out with. My religion is Yazidi but my parents didn’t try to limit my interactions to people within that religion. I can hang out with anybody as long as they aren’t bad influences. This is one thing I love about America. There is a lot of freedom to interact with anybody you want to, regardless of background or religion. In the Middle East it is much more sensitive, particularly recently.

Kelsey’s story:

I work at the Asian Community and Cultural Center and I work with Sawsan at the youth center there. Sawsan attends the young women’s leadership council which meets every Sunday. We also meet throughout the week to work on school work and just talk. I grew up in Lincoln, my immediate family lives here. This is where my whole life has always been based.

I don’t really know much about my heritage. I just know I am a combination of Norwegian, English, German, but I am pretty disconnected from these places. There are some traditions that have been sustained from my heritage, mostly through food. Around Christmas my family always eats “lefse,” which is this thin, bland bread that is made with a base of potato. It is a Norwegian food. My family has been Lutheran for a long time, so that is another thing that has been passed down in my family. Most of my family has lived in South Dakota but I don’t really know when they arrived there.

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