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Tuesday April 13th

'It is something Deah would have done:' Community remembers students through service

<p>Students in the UNC School of Dentistry volunteer on DEAH Day, a day of service to honor Deah Barakat, a victim of the 2015&nbsp;Chapel Hill Shooting.&nbsp;Photo Courtesy of Tiffany Brannan.</p>
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Students in the UNC School of Dentistry volunteer on DEAH Day, a day of service to honor Deah Barakat, a victim of the 2015 Chapel Hill Shooting. Photo Courtesy of Tiffany Brannan.

As a way of giving back to the community, the UNC School of Dentistry, where Barakat was a student and Yusor had been admitted, started DEAH Day, short for Directing Efforts and Honoring Deah and Yusor.

“It’s a day where everyone comes together — DDS students, dental hygiene, dental assisting, staff, faculty and we go out into the community and we provide service,” said Kaushal Gandhi, dental student and DEAH Day organizer.

Gandhi said she has high hopes for the future of DEAH Day, which has been in September for the past two years.

“The first year we had 350 volunteers and this past year we had almost 400 volunteers,” Gandhi said. “So we’re already seeing it get a little bigger in the second year and we’re hoping it gets bigger and bigger every time.”

Paul Gardner, associate dean of advancement for the UNC School of Dentistry and executive director of the Dental Foundation of North Carolina, said the dental school also gives out the Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha Memorial Award.

“It’s an award in their memory and it’s to go to a student or students who are doing projects that give back to communities that need help the most, whether the community is local in North Carolina, the United States or an international site,” Gardner said.

Gandhi, along with her friend and classmate Connie Wang, received this award in honor of their efforts to help the homeless population in the Triangle.

“We are actually going to a homeless, runaway and crisis intervention program for youth in the Triangle and we’re going there and making dinner with some teenagers and we’re going to talk to them about basketball,” Gandhi said.

“We feel that it is something Deah would have done.”

Before Barakat died, he created a crowdfunding page to raise money to provide dental care to Syrian refugees in Turkey. Gardner said after Barakat’s death, many people donated to that page.

“That’s wonderful because that’s what Deah wanted to do, he wanted to provide care in the Middle East for refugees,” Gardner said. “They set up a clinic there and people will be able to continue to provide that care that he always wanted to do.”

N.C. State University created a scholarship award honoring Razan, who was a sophomore there, and Barakat and Yusor, who were alumni.

Tara Micgiel, an assistant director in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at N.C. State, said the university’s three colleges — Management, Sciences and Design — each select a student to receive the award. In the award’s first year, each college selected two.

“The different colleges are picking students based on the characteristics the three students exhibited. So they’re looking for leadership, service and creativity,” Micgiel said.

Rosario Dominguez-Tapia, a second-year student in the College of Design, received one of the awards.

“Whether it was medicine or design, I think it’s important that in our roles as students or the professional field that we use our ability in service of others,” she said.

Ahmad Tejan-Sie, outreach co-chairperson for the UNC Muslim Students Association, said his organization is offering volunteer opportunities to honor the victims.

“Later this weekend, UNC is organizing a Hunger Now event,” Tejan-Sie said. “The three victims were obviously very dedicated to volunteering and just giving back to the community so UNC MSA, we’re trying to continue that tradition.”

Though he only met Barakat and Yusor a couple of times, he said their lives and deaths greatly impacted him.

“It has defined my Carolina experience up to this point,” he said.

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