Release Date: 
Monday, October 28, 2019

HFC students breathe new life into two student organizations

HFC students Othman Alaansi (left) and Behar Alhalemi (right) volunteer at the Brilliant Detroit event in mid-October, which was hosted by the HFC Office of Student Activities. Both students have rejuvenated two inactive student organizations at HFC: the Arab Student Union and the Yemeni Student Association.
HFC students Othman Alaansi (left) and Behar Alhalemi (right) volunteer at the Brilliant Detroit event in mid-October, which was hosted by the office of Student Activities. The students have rejuvenated two inactive student organizations at HFC: the Arab Student Union and the Yemeni Student Association.

Two HFC student organizations – the Arab Student Union and the Yemeni Student Association – had been inactive for more than a year. Then HFC students Behar Alhalemi and Othman Alaansi got involved.

Arab Student Union

A native of Manhattan who lived in Yemen and later Mississippi before moving to Dearborn to attend HFC in 2018, Alhalemi is the president of what she refers to as a “whole new incarnation” of ASU.

“The main reason I started this group was a lot of people who are non-Arab or non-Muslim when I lived in Mississippi did not understand the culture and the religious aspects. When I moved here, I thought that everyone – even Arabs – would understand the difference between the cultures and embrace each other. But I didn’t see that. It bothered me, so I started this club. I created a group with people from different backgrounds. I learn more about them – the Arabic culture, the Yemeni culture, the Hispanic culture, the African-American culture – at each meeting. Even their culture as an individual – people have a different way of thinking and doing things,” explained Alhalemi, who is majoring in biology at HFC.

According to Alhalemi, the ASU has about 23 members this semester and meets every Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in room M-119 of the Student & Culinary Arts Center (Bldg. M), and welcomes new members. The ASU is open to anyone, regardless of their background. In fact, while about half its membership is predominantly Yemeni, the other half is Hispanic, Caucasian, and African-American.

“Our meetings give us a chance to understand each other more. I want to create a family out of this club, where people feel like they belong. I’ve made connections with everyone; I feel like I’ve known them a long time, even though I just met them," she said. "Our meetings are unique. Everyone gets to express their ideas; everyone has a chance to have the floor. We create a circle that I think brings us closer and makes people feel welcome and cared about. We are in a circle of love, peace, and acceptance."

Yemeni Student Association

A 2016 alumnus of Fordson High School, Alaansi was involved with their Muslim Student Association. After losing a few close elections in the MSA, Alaansi changed gears and reformed the YSA, where he serves as the vice-president.

“The YSA’s mission is to inform people about Yemeni culture. The Yemeni population in Dearborn is significant. I want to make everyone aware of our very rich culture and feel comfortable with our people,” he said.

According to Alaansi, Yemeni culture is well known for its history, cuisine, architecture, and its trade market. In fact, Yemen was one of the first places coffee was found.

The YSA has approximately 30 members this semester and meets every Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in room M-119 in Building M, and welcomes new members.

“We’re breaking down barriers and making new friends, getting comfortable with one another,” said Alaansi. “Our meetings are very engaging. You are the meeting. You get the chance to speak and share your ideas – that’s what makes our club unique. We don’t have someone lecturing us.”

Positive experiences at HFC

Both Alhalemi and Alaansi have high praise for HFC.

“I took two days to tour the HFC campus when I was a senior at Holly Springs High School in Mississippi,” said Alhalemi. “It’s a nice campus. The people at the Welcome Center were very friendly and helpful. HFC embraces you; you don’t feel lost.”

Alhalemi is a work study student in the Welcome Center. On top of her duties as president of the ASU, she’s also a member of the YSA, the MSA, and the secretary of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. After graduating from HFC, she plans to continue her studies at Wayne State University and aspires to attend medical school.

“As a person who just moved here, HFC made me feel welcome,” she said. “I wasn’t scared. It embraced me and didn’t scare me; I embraced the College and have had a great education here.”

Alaansi, who is the treasurer of the ASU and a work study student in the Counseling Center, was the HFC Student of the Month in October. Upon graduation from HFC in late 2019 with his associate degree in computer science, he plans to transfer to the University of Michigan-Dearborn in early 2020.

“I really love this College,” he said. “College can be a pretty scary place. HFC helped me develop and transition from being a high school student to a college student. Every semester, I’d learn so many new things in so many subjects HFC offers: math, science, English, computers. I’ve been active in student clubs. This is all preparing me to become a leader. The last three years have been amazing. HFC helped me appreciate college instead of fearing it. I’ll have the same energy and same confidence I had over here when I go to UM-D.”