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Somali student authors recognized by Green Bay school board

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – School board members took time at their June 17 meeting to recognize a small group of Somali teenagers, who are current and former district students, for the publication of their book “The First Winter: Stories of Survival by Experienced Hearts.”

These 12 girls call themselves the United ReSisters.

They range in age from 15 to 25 and are attending Green Bay public high schools, UW-Green Bay and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

United ReSisters was established in the Spring of 2017 by Diane Delbecchi, Courtney Maye and Katie Stockman as an attempt to shine a light on the growing presence of Somali youth in the Green Bay area.

The girls chose the name United ReSisters because they wanted the group to portray the ultimate sisterhood by bonding together to resist hate, prejudice and misunderstanding while doing so through education, resilience and love.

The girls premiered the book at the UntitledTown Book and Author Festival in Green Bay in late April.

The book is a collection of reflections, conversations, letters, lists and poems about their experiences as refugees and journeys to the United States.

It focuses on celebrating Somali culture and traditions while highlighting the girls’ journey as new residents of the Green Bay area.

“It was really nice writing the story because we weren’t censored at all, we weren’t told we can’t write this, we couldn’t write that,” said Yasmin Nur, former East High School student. “This book is 100 percent our thoughts and our stories. Having the book published doesn’t really feel real.”

Nur is currently a student at UW-Green Bay.

The book, which took about a year to write, touches on where the girls come from, where they are now and where they’re going.

“I can’t be more happy with how the book turned out,” said East High School junior Nasteho Abdi. “It was a real great opportunity for us to actually write down what we thought and how we wanted people to see us as.”

By sharing their stories and experiences, these Somali girls are hoping they can shine light on an sometimes overlooked population.

“The book was beautiful on so many levels, I learned a lot,” said Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld. “I also learned how much we are the same in terms of what we like and what we want in life.”

Aldo Leopold Community School has recently integrated the book into its empowerment exploratory for women.

“Thank you for sharing your stories,” said trustee Eric Vanden Heuvel. “I can’t wait to read it.”

The girls will be around the community this summer to continue to share their stories and give those interested a chance to purchase the book. Those events include:

• June 23 – Union Congregational Church, from 11-11:45 a.m. in the upper level in Pilgrim Hall.

• July 8 – Migration Advocacy of Brown County meeting at St. Willebrod Church at 6:30 p.m.

• July 18 – The Art Garage for a pop-up meet and greet from 6-8 p.m.

The book is available to purchase online from twoshrewspress.com.

Proceeds from the first 500 books sold go directly to the students to help them pay for their extended education.

After that they will receive a royalty percentage.

When you purchase directly from the authors, 100 percent of the price benefits the 12 authors and their continued studies.

More information on United ReSisters can be found at unitedresisters.com.

The book was funded by a grant by the Women’s Fund.

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