The Crystal family recognizes New Hope in Vermont’s New Americans

Courtesy photo
Jon Crystal (center) with New Hope Award recipients Abdelali Amrani and Fardowsa Ibrahim.

by Jan Demers

The award application told a compelling story in just a few sentences.

“My name is Fardowsa Ibrahim, 22 years old and a fourth-year medical laboratory sciences major at the University of Vermont. I identify as a first-generation college student and as a black, Muslim woman who wears a hijab. I was born in Kenya and my parents are from Somalia. I got married at 18 years old. I am a wife, full time student, and mother. My parents came here because of war and wanted to give my siblings and me an opportunity to receive an education in a safe environment.”

Nearly 400 years ago, the pilgrims came to North America to escape religious persecution and political turmoil to start a new life in a new land.

Last February, Abdelali Amrani came to Burlington from Morocco. “My family and I faced many hardships and challenges. Being homeless and unemployed was not the ideal situation for raising a New American family.” Help came from CVOEO, the state, and the Committee On Temporary Shelter.

“Armed with a precise action plan along with a lot of determination and perseverance, I was able to write a business plan for our future Moroccan restaurant, enroll as a full-time student at CCV this summer to study business law, land a job as an interpreter with the [Association of Africans Living in Vermont], and was promoted soon after as an interpreter coordinator with this amazing organization,” Amrani said.

The Crystal family came from Europe and entered the United States through Ellis Island. Jon Crystal and his brother Andrew and their family have given their time and skill past and present to the work of nonprofits, the Peace Corps, justice efforts for refugees, and building up of our community.

The Crystal brothers established the Crystal Family New Hope Award to be presented to two New American recipients starting this year. Jon describes the $500 awards this way: “The New Hope Award recognizes and honors the contributions, accomplishments and potential of those who are, or are striving to become new Americans. The people it celebrates are the ‘new hope’ for this country, enriching it in important ways. At the same time, this country represents ‘new hope’ for these individuals, as their lives are shaped anew.”

Ibrahim and Amrani were the first to receive this award on Nov.16.

Andrew Crystal said he found passion and purpose to honor new immigrant community members in Amrani’s words: “My family and I are very fortunate to have been surrounded by so many great people who have helped us transition quickly from the dangers of homelessness…We hope in the near future to be able to give back to this community and to help inspire others to do the same,” she said.

Thanksgiving is the most treasured holiday for the Crystal family. They thought it fitting when they established the New Hope Award to give it now so that others can do the same later.

We gather together and do give thanks.

Jan F. Demers is executive director if the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. Reach her at 862-2771 ext. 740 or

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