Fifth-graders read refugees’ accounts in Linda Sue Park’s “A Long Walk to Water” followed by “Refugee” by Alan Gratz, and as an exercise of empathy and global citizenship, the students tried to walk in refugees’ “shoes” by hauling vital water across campus and on neighboring trails.

The timing was perfect when the Director of Alumni Relations and Community Outreach Liz Lightfoot ’77 introduced The Country School to Ibrahim Mohamed, now one of the school’s two inaugural Elmore Leadership Teaching Fellows. A recent Dean’s List graduate from Connecticut College and a native of Somaliland, Ibrahim deferred his graduate school matriculation for a year after earning his Bachelor of Arts in Government and Global Islamic Studies.

As a Teaching Fellow, Ibrahim will participate in Cultural Arts and Global Studies instruction, and join the Student IDEA Alliance and Faculty and Staff IDEA Alliance (IDEA stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Empathy, and Action) for their continued work enhancing diversity and inclusion. Ibrahim brings a broad range of global experiences, having graduated from the world-renowned Abaarso School in Hargeisa, Somaliland, and United World College in Costa Rica, earning his International Baccalaureate. He has also studied abroad in Tunisia and Italy and had an internship with the United Nations in Beirut, Lebanon, where he worked with Palestinian refugees. In addition to Somali and English, Ibrahim speaks Spanish and Arabic. He has also tutored young students at an orphanage in Somaliland.


Intimately familiar with the issues confronting Palestinian refugees, Mr. Mohamed shared his story with the curious 5th Graders via Zoom. Ibrahim’s goal was to create an awareness of the importance of empathy for people who never wanted to leave their homes but needed security, employment, education, freedom from war, and all that family life has to offer away from their homeland.

“These are people called names; strangers in foreign lands; unwelcome to resettle in one place and call it home,” he said. “They have to leave their homes because they are at real risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations.” Mr. Mohamed spoke of one woman who claimed that she would “rather die in the midst of bombs and gunfire than spend her life in the squalor and chaos of a camp.” Another refugee’s message was “I do not want to be a refugee. I just want to go home.”

The 5th Graders’ thoughtful questions evidenced the impression Mr. Mohamed and noted, “I have learned small ways that empathy makes a difference” and “I had a chance to hear the thoughts and stories of someone who worked first-hand with refugees and people who have been driven from their homes with only the clothes on their back.” The 5th Grade welcomes their new friend and mentor, Ibrahim Mohamed.

Founded in 1955, The Country School serves students in PreSchool-Grade 8 on its 23-acre campus in Madison. The Country School honors students’ creativity, sense of wonder, and intellectual curiosity. The school’s integrated curriculum aligns rigorous academics with a commitment to character and leadership development. Learn more at

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