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Refugees Prepare for American School

by School's Out Washington | | Posted under Afterschool and Summer News

by Nicola Crawford, Refugee School Impact Grant VISTA Member

I recently had the opportunity to visit The International Rescue Committee (IRC) Summer Program, an incredible program funded partly through the School’s Out Washington administered Refugee School Impact Grant (RSIG).

Recently arrived with their families from Bhutan/Nepal, Burma, and Somalia among other countries, the students, most having only been in the US for a few weeks or a few months, welcomed us warmly before finishing their game of literacy infused Heads Up Seven Up. The nearly thirty students at the IRC Summer Program in Tukwila were divided into two classes by age group and were eager to learn.

The program seeks to provide the children who are resettled over the summer an introduction to navigating the school system and a head start before they enter school in September. In addition to English and literacy skills, the teachers explain and model school norms and expectations like lining up and raising your hand, and demonstrate how learning takes place in America, trying to build a foundation for successful school adjustment.

Student’s community art project

Once they overcame their initial shyness, the children were happy to share with us the range of topics they have been covering: family, community, school and health. After another fun literacy game, the students showed us their community project. Each community, a model of clay on paper, was different, but each one captured in a unique way the idea of community in the children’s lives, including a combination of where they lived now, where they had come from (with a landmark, flag, memory), and for some, even the globe.

As I watched them laugh and play during their recess, I was struck by the resiliency of these young people. By definition of their refugee status, they are in America because they faced persecution or fear of persecution in their homeland and it was unsafe to return. The goal of RSIG and the nine statewide district-community partnerships that RSIG funds is to support these students and students like them by providing support and an environment, in the schools and in their communities, where they can grow and thrive. The IRC summer program captures this goal, providing the students a foundation for learning and navigating the schools, and clearly from their laughter, the students are having a lot of fun learning.

It will take many people along the way to support these young people. As members of their communities and schools, will we give them an environment to allow all their potential to flourish? If we do, we all will benefit from the strengths these young people bring to this country and to our communities.

Resources for supporting refugee students, their families and schools can be found on our website, as well as on Bridging Refugee Youth and Children Services (BRYCS).

Rainbow tag during recess

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