Karson Baldwin '21 and Israel Kambomba hope to build buddy relationships among refugee and non-refugee students. They won the civic pitch contest at Accelerate: Citizens Make Change, presented by Cleveland Leadership Center and will receive $5,000 to help bring the civic vision to reality. They, along with Kennon Walton '20 and Tony Peng '20 were the only high school students to reach semifinalist status in the competition.
Karson, a US sophomore, and Israel, who moved to Cleveland from the Congo and is a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy (whose student body is comprised of refugees and immigrants from over 40 countries), want to expand a pilot program Karson created that helps address challenges of integration. The title of their pitch, Onè Respè, comes from a Haitian Creole expression of welcome that means “honor and respect.” Israel said refugees find it difficult to create new friendships. They hope to help others create the kind of friendship they have formed.
Karson met Israel while volunteering at the school. The two became fast friends which spurred the idea for a partnership program between the two schools to have the students talk, play, create and eat together, as they share their lives. They believe these friendships are the best way to promote honor and respect for immigrants and refugees.
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