Country of Origin: Afghanistan
If you ask Fereshteh when her birthday is, she will smile, and tell you that she was born on the day she arrived in America. Originally from Afghanistan and raised in Iran, Fereshteh believes in the power of education.
At the age of 22, while in Tehran, she founded a secret elementary school for Afghan children. Working in two shifts and housing over 300 students a day, the school served as the only form of education for undocumented Afghan children, who were barred from the Irani educational system due to their citizenship status.
Classes took place in a dark basement under a makeshift light as Fereshteh taught her students about the virtues of history and language. The school faced heavy scrutiny and was forced to shut down multiple times by the government.
In addition to her work with the underground school, Fereshteh volunteered for the United Nations, a role that took her to Slovakia, where she decided to apply for refugee status. She tells us that whenever she travels, she carries with her a Quran and a pen, symbolizing a commitment to her faith and education. After a long process that spanned three years, Fereshteh arrived in the U.S. on September 27th, 2011.
She remains a seasoned education advocate, and her passion for writing has not ceased. In Connecticut, Fereshteh is a Professor of Farsi at the University of New Haven, an active translator for refugees, and attends nursing school.
Note: The suitcase used for Fereshteh's piece belonged to her mother.