DU alum providing opportunities to young refugees and immigrants
Twenty years ago this month, a 12-year-old boy and his family arrived in Denver from Eritrea, full of excitement and uncertainty. University of Denver alumnus Yoal Ghebremeskel (BA ’07) recalls asking his mother why they had to leave their home and come to this mysterious place called America. “For education, opportunity and to have a better life,” she answered.
Today, Yoal is creating a better life for boys and young men, primarily refugees and immigrants, right here in Denver.
“I have always been passionate to give back,” Yoal says. “So much has been given to me throughout my life, and I wanted to be involved in my community since my last year at DU.”
With an interest in international studies, Yoal initially wanted to work around the globe. But he soon realized he could make a difference here in Denver. Four years ago he founded Street Fraternity, a small space tucked away in a basement off Colfax near the border of Denver and Aurora.
“Here we are very diverse,” he says. “Many different backgrounds are participants at Street Fraternity. The majority are former refugee young men that resettled here.”
About 50 boys and young men come through the doors at Street Fraternity every evening, Monday through Thursday. For many, the pathway of education is not working out. Some have dropped out or are on the verge of dropping out. Street Fraternity also provides drug and alcohol counseling and support for mental health issues. The work is done by a small number of paid staff members and volunteers.
Yoal says building these relationships with these young adults not only provides a sense of belonging for them, but also cuts down on neighborhood violence and conflict. He says his experience at the University of Denver laid the foundation for him to build Street Fraternity.
“It was the professors for me. It was the one-on-one connection sitting in classes. I really like the interaction that I had and the engagement that I had with the professors at Korbel.”