by Kevin Niepraschk
Guest Blogger, Promise Refugee Youth Partnership
The education of our children is important. They need support, they need guidance, and they need to know we want them to be the best they can and that they can achieve anything. This can be difficult sometimes, especially when there is a language barrier. In Salt Lake City, we have a strong refugee community, and many of them have never had the opportunity to learn English before coming to America. They are starting their lives over, trying to find a new beginning, which means they need support. We support the families with case management, the parents with job training and English classes, and the children with afterschool programs. But is there more we can do? Absolutely!! There is always more we can do, and so a coalition was born.
“The Promise Refugee Youth partnership is a non-traditional approach to aligning strategies to directly improve academic outcomes for refugee youth and young adults.”
We decided to start a pilot program and the Granite School District helped guide us to Granite Park Junior High. A group of newly arrived refugees, 7th and 8th graders, from five different countries speaking six different languages, were chosen to join this program. This program offers weekly class time together as a group, sharing their struggles in a new country, learning a new language, and lending support both academically and emotionally. The youth are given opportunities to improve their English, play games, and have lessons which help them to assimilate and grow in their new life living in America, while at the same time, holding on to their culture and personal identity. They go on field trips exploring their new home and the opportunities that exist here. The parents meet once a month to talk with one another and to learn of what exists here for them and their families, as well show them support for their children in their education.
Learning a new system can be difficult, and we want our families to have faith in the school system their children are a part of. This, in part, comes through understanding how it works and knowing what is expected of the children and the parents. The kids also take part in an afterschool program with tutors to help them through their studies. In addition to those, each child is matched with a mentor that is involved with them and their parents.
The youth have gone on two field trips so far, one to Goldman Sachs and the other to SpyHop. At Goldman Sachs, the kids learned that no matter your background, you can reach any goal you set. It doesn’t matter where you start, you can still get there. At SpyHop they had the opportunity to work with cameras and computers to create videos/movies and their own music, which describes who they are and where they come from.
The aim is to ensure our youth have the best chance at success. Our kids all grow and progress at different rates. We want to be there to support and guide them through any challenge that they may come across! We truly can change the odds for these amazing refugee kids and their families!