Sail Alhelal is living his transformational journey on the Onondaga Community College campus. Alhelal is a native of Iraq. As a student in middle school, Alhelal and his classmates were encouraged to dislike America. “We were taught to hate this country. I questioned why we were doing this. Eventually I told my father my dream was to come to the United States.”
When he was 17, Alhelal moved to Turkey and applied to come to the United States. His dream came true and today he’s a student at OCC majoring in Mathematics & Science with the goal of becoming a pharmacist. “People here are just like people in Iraq. None of us can change what happened in the past. America is giving me an education right now. I want to say to my country one day, ‘Look what America has given me.’”
Alhelal’s photo is one of more than two dozen on-display in the Gordon Student Center as part of OCC’s campus-wide Common Read. The subject of the Common Read is “Wild” by New York Times bestselling author Cheryl Strayed. Her memoir reveals a candid account of her transformational journey while hiking 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey which pressed her unraveling body and spirit towards a poetic truth of self-discovery.
The photo exhibit is titled “What’s Your Journey?” Each student was photographed while holding up a sign stating their goal for the year. The large, black and white photos were taken by Meredith Cantor-Feller who is Coordinator of the College’s Photography Program and Interim Dean of Visual, Performing & Applied Arts. “We know everyone has their own experiences and their own journey. They are all here for their own reasons and have their goals. Their goals didn’t have to be academic,” Cantor-Feller said.
The exhibit will be on-display in Gordon until January 6. We encourage you to stop by, look at the photos and consider what your journey is!