Seniors Learn about Refugee and Immigration Work

Loomis Chaffee seniors in the Global and Environmental Studies Certificate program welcomed a specialist in refugee and immigrant resettlement to the program’s senior seminar on Thursday, March 23. 

Maman Cooper-Downer, an education & enrollment specialist at Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services in Hartford, Conn., shared her personal journey as a refugee and highlighted her own work with refugees and advocating for women’s rights.  

Ms. Cooper-Downer told the assembled students about coming to Hartford from the West African country of Cote d’Ivoire as a refugee with her father and older sister in 2004. She discussed the challenges she faced as an immigrant and refugee. 

“I did not start school for the first time until I came to the United States at the age of 12 and did not speak any English,” Ms. Cooper-Downer said. But, through perseverance, effort, and the support of her teachers and community, she went on to graduate from the University of Connecticut and began working in education as a teacher and mentor for students in the Hartford area. She recently joined IRIS, first as an ambassador, helping refugees acclimate to schools and communities, and now as the education and enrollment specialist in their Hartford office.  

These personal experiences influenced her decisions to take action, she said, and she encouraged the seniors to identify their passions and act on their beliefs.  

The discussion, sponsored by the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies, was part of a series of seminars that are required of students earning the certificate. In addition to participating in the seminars, the students must complete the fourth-year level of foreign language study; participate in an educational travel program with an international, multicultural, or environmental focus; and complete an online portfolio and capstone project.