Alumni / Fall 2017

Alum-founded Street Fraternity helps Denver immigrants find their way

Yoal Ghebremeskel is the founder of Street Fraternity. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Twenty years ago, a 12-year-old boy and his family arrived in Denver from Eritrea, full of excitement and uncertainty. Yoal Ghebremeskel (BA ’07) recalls asking his mother why his family had to leave their home and come to this mysterious place called America. “For education, opportunity and to have a better life,” she answered.

Today, Ghebremeskel is creating a better life for boys and young men, primarily refugees and immigrants, in his new hometown of Denver.

“I have always been passionate to give back,” Ghebremeskel says. “So much has been given to me throughout my life, and I wanted to be involved in my community since my last year at DU.”

With a degree in international studies, Ghebremeskel initially wanted to work around the globe. But he soon realized he could make a difference in Denver. Four years ago, he founded Street Fraternity, a small space tucked away in a basement off East Colfax Avenue near the border of Denver and Aurora.

“Here we are very diverse,” he says. “Many different backgrounds are participants at Street Fraternity. The majority are former refugee young men that resettled here.”

About 50 boys and young men come through the doors at Street Fraternity every evening, Monday through Thursday. For many, the pathway of education is not working out. Some have dropped out or are on the verge of dropping out. Street Fraternity also provides drug and alcohol counseling and support for mental health issues. The work is done by a small number of paid staff members and volunteers.

Ghebremeskel says building relationships with these young adults not only provides a sense of belonging for them, but also cuts down on neighborhood violence and conflict.

“My one suggestion to young men of immigrant and refugee background would be keep dreaming, keep having aspirations and work on them,” he says, “and the right doors will open up for you to get you there.”


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