Written by Dagne Furth ~
Years ago, while watching my students work on Dear Tariq in a classroom, I had this uncanny instinct that maybe all teachers, all humans get when they experience the magic of a moment.
There was something then, in Selena and Geo’s initial poignant meeting with Jordan and Alex Myteberi, and in our first meeting with then ten-year-old Sirin Hamada, that felt very special. It was as if the universe was bringing together all these wonderful young people for a purpose larger than our present unit’s horizons.
As illustrative sketches turned into watercolor proofs and the narrative increased in depth and meaning, Dear Tariq seemed to take on this ethereal quality.
There was so much earnestness, curiosity, and goodwill wrapped up in every fiber of the story and the story behind the story that its potential to create a beautiful and lasting ripple effect was evident. I imagined that eventually when students got hold of the story they would not only be able to read it but also understand they could most certainly write their own stories too.
Thus, after over two years of hard work, the book launch for our little team was a wonderful thing to commemorate.
Green River College felt like a fitting place to host such a talk given its commitment to student learning and specifically international student education.
Given our international author-illustrator team and tangible endorsement of the power of collaborative intercultural relationships, we were proud to celebrate a spirit of inclusivity, modeled at Green River. Having a multi-age diverse team of young people create this project from the very beginning was very important to Selena and Geo and why we appreciated so many advocates sharing their perspectives of working on this story behind the scenes.
The power of servant leadership and community was evident in the facilitation of our guest speakers including articulate host and co-author Selena Morse, now attending Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, where she is pursuing supply chain management and cross-sector leadership.
From Jordan Hattar, director of Help4Refugees’ personal reflection, to service-learning coach LeeAnne Lavender’s contributions regarding the Dear Tariq curriculum, to Caitlyn P. Jones of Artist Madrid Book’s publishing assistance, and Green River Student Ayoub Madani’s commitment to helping translate the story into Arabic, a diverse community of students and student advocates shared their perspectives in celebration of this unique story.
Zoom participants, included cherished student cheerleaders, educators, and administrators from around the world like LeeAnne Lavender, Holly Raatz, Sarah Klein, Jen and Ryan Muir, Irrey Zhang, Tridaugh Winston, Jean Tarbox, and Val Smith. Their collective supportive presence was a literal and symbolic extension of the power of mentorship in community.
Watch the Zoom Book Launch - Student / Author Talk Recording
Back on the ground, Auburn Riverside High school student and NHS and Key Club member Taylor Burkett helped to organize over 25 student volunteers to help serve at the event. Students helped to both setup and break down the space with ease and congeniality.
A highlight for our creative team was welcoming guests from Tanoor restaurant in Seattle as well as team members from the IRC (International Rescue Comittee) and families from the greater Auburn, WA area. The opportunity to meet, converse, and make new friends from diverse cultural backgrounds while enjoying savory Lebanese cuisine was a soulful treat. Everyone left with a full belly and plated hummus, zaatar manakeesh, and stuffed grape leaves- our young Syrian illustrator Sirin Hamada’s favorites!
Featuring handmade jewelry from Syrian women from New Day partner Salaam Cultural Museum and Medical Missions (an organization actively providing relief to communities along the northern Syria/southern Turkey border) was both an honor and pleasure, reinforcing a global narrative of community, solidarity, and love.
For me personally, I was deeply touched that Selena, Jordan, and Caitlyn flew in from out of state and country to be there in person. While we could have orchestrated a virtual-only event, their mutual willingness to celebrate in this way was inspiring and again, indicative of their fierce devotion and commitment to this story.
After all, Dear Tariq is about building authentic relationships and bridging the divide. We believe an outside-the-box, creative, collaborative storytelling approach is essential for this next generation of worldwide storytellers.
Ordinary people can equip students to tell extraordinary stories. And when you’re in relationship with young people, it doesn’t take long to glimpse the magic in a moment.
Thank you for attending our book launch, for watching our recording online, and for generously supporting our grassroots storytelling advocacy endeavors where we hope to create a more empathetic world, one story at a time.
Click here to purchase Dear Tariq and support our young Syrian illustrator Sirin Hamada.
As a passionate international English and social science educator, mother, forensics-speaking coach, and defender of student advocacy, I strive to embody and model the qualities of an empathetic, humble yet resilient global citizen. My fervent goals, inspired by years of teaching, writing, mentoring, tutoring, and coaching, are to empower youth and curate an inclusive and collaborative publishing platform for young people around the world.