Local high school students pen pal with Syrian refugees - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local high school students pen pal with Syrian refugees

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MARION (KWWL) -

Although Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has said he does not want Syrian Refugees coming to the state, that is not stopping area high school students from becoming pen pals with Syrian refugees  from a world away.

Ten Linn-Mar High School students have been taking part in the program.

The opportunity came  to the students through their teacher David Swaney, who teaches government classes.

When Swaney's friend contacted him asking if his students would want to be pen pals with Syrian refugees, it was an easy decision.

 "Anytime that students can get real life experience one-on-one speaking with a Syrian Refugee to find out the reality of what it's like on the ground in one of the biggest current event stories of our time, there is nothing better," Swaney said.

The students write letters by hand and then upload them online, that's where they also receive replies.

 "Regretfully my oldest brother died in the war, my two other brothers disappeared, just I remain alive," read one of the letters.

Others are written on lighter notes.

 "What do you like best about guys?" one letter asked.

It's an experience students are embracing despite negativity surrounding Syrian refugees.

 "When you actually get down and take the time to get to know them it really does change your perspective," said Aaron Jones, a student.

 "You have to look into it for yourself, it's easy just because we hear the negative things on Muslims and Syrians but at the end of the day their doctors, their lawyers, their people who have worked hard," Nikki Nauman told us, another student.

We are told this opportunity has taught the students more than they could ever possibly learn in a classroom.

"It takes their minds there and helps them look through their eyes at the story," said Swaney.

The students have been participating in this for about ten months however the program is now wrapping up.

The Syrian pen pals are located at Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan which is home to 80,000 refugees.

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