Publishers Note: Maya, Iman, Nada, and Victoria are three outstanding young people who would use some help from the Brookline community for their important mission. These four young women will be honored at the 7th Brookline Youth Awards on May 17 at the Coolidge Corner Theater. We hope you will support their “Portraits of Immigrants” project.

We are a group of students from Brookline High School organizing a campaign to make Brookline and Boston a more open community for immigrants and refugees. We are called Brookline High School Sanctuary City Group, and we were organized by juniors Maya Shaughnessy, Iman Khan, Nada Alaeddin and Victoria Ter-Ovanesyan to take action and make Brookline a safer space.

Iman Khan is a Muslim American daughter of immigrants. “Almost every family member I have here in America is an immigrant,” Khan said. “My parents came to America, hoping to provide my siblings and me with an environment that would make us better people and an education that would help us become successful… Although I was born here, I can see the beauty and value in immigration, as it has built a country.”

Nada Alaeddin is also a first generation Muslim American. “Having family that has been affected by Trump’s current executive order, this issue has sparked a fire inside my heart,” Alaeddin said. “I couldn’t let this happen without my efforts being put into trying to raise awareness and make a safe place for anyone even if it’s as small as Brookline it’s a good first step.”

Maya Shaughnessy decided to take on this Action Project since she found the topic an extremely pertinent issue to address, given the current political climate.

“The sanctuary our nation has provided for many has benefitted not only the people seeking refuge, but all of us as embracing our diversity is what makes America the country of opportunity, freedom, and possibility it’s said to be,” she said. “At a time like this, it is more important than ever for all to come together and stand up for immigrant rights all over the world.”

Vicka Ter-Ovanesyan is a Russian-Armenian who emigrated from Moscow, Russia in 2009.

“Coming from a background of three very different cultures gave me an opportunity to be open to many different points of view and connect with people from different backgrounds,” she said. “At BHS I became very interested in Spanish and thanks to my wonderful teachers, such as Pedro Mendez, was able to learn more about the culture of Latin America. I feel very passionately about immigration rights and believe that we need to do all we can to make immigrants feel welcome and safe.”

We have joined forces and knowledge we acquired from our different backgrounds to help change Brookline and Boston for the better.  One of our most successful projects so far is the Facebook page called: Portraits of Immigrants Boston. This page shows immigrant stories and interviews to raise awareness about immigration issues and their importance in the Boston community. We strive to make immigrant stories more personal, shining a light on their experiences and struggles as well as how they are affected by the current policies. The Brookline High School Sanctuary City group is looking to get more immigrant stories to spread awareness through bringing light to stories of the people in the community. It is a healthy and positive way to bring attention to the issue of immigration simply by letting people speak and telling their experiences; good and bad!

Another project of ours is taking action within Brookline High School to make it a more welcoming place for immigrants and refugees. A part of this project is getting teachers as well as other students involved to organize on May 1st, a nationwide “Day without an Immigrant” event. During this event, the students plan to host events throughout the day that will raise awareness and show BHS students how important immigrants are to the community.

Written by BHS student, Vick Ter-Ovanesyan