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By Kelsey Durham

Students and faculty at Queensborough Community College have joined people all over the world in support of rescuing the nearly 300 girls who were kidnapped from a boarding school in Nigeria last month.

The campus community gathered Wednesday at the school in Bayside to join the fight against Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group that abducted 276 school girls April 14. A group of about 30 students and teachers posed to replicate a photograph using the “Bring Back Our Girls” hashtag that has captured social media in recent weeks after news outlets reported the hundreds of young women were missing.

The photo was then sent to First Lady Michelle Obama, who also joined the movement by posting her own photo on Twitter May 7 holding a paper that had the same phrase.

The idea for the group photo at QCC was sparked by an adjunct professor, Evy Poumpouras, who first took part in a separate photo opportunity last week with her criminal justice class.

As a former Secret Service agent who used to be part of the security teams for President Barack Obama and the first lady, Poumpouras has the inside connections needed to get the photo to the White House to show the college’s support for the girls.

She said she was moved to act because of the underlying reason behind the kidnapping — the terror group’s opposition to the girls receiving an organized Western education — and how it affected her and the rest of the college. After seeing Michelle Obama’s photo posted to Twitter, she decided to ask her class to follow.

“I saw that photo and just thought it was very strong and powerful.” Poumpouras said. “I did a photo with the class and then the school decided we wanted to do it with the rest of the college and send a message that we’re here, in school, and trying to get an education. Sometimes we don’t realize how lucky we are that we can do that.”

Poumpouras also frequently appears on national news programs as a law enforcement expert. She was most recently part of a May 13 discussion on MSNBC on whether it is appropriate to negotiate with terrorists as a way to get the girls home safely. During the live broadcast, the photo of Poumpouras’ class was aired.

“It sends the message that here we are, in New York City, talking about what happened to these girls in Nigeria,” she said. “Just because it happened in Nigeria doesn’t mean people aren’t paying attention. The world is paying attention.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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