Resettled refugee students learning English as a Second Language (ESL) face many challenges acquiring proficiency in written and spoken English.
Upon arrival in the United States students who have had limited academic instruction in their native country are often placed in school systems without the necessary support. Unrealistic academic expectations are compounded by a gap in family support due to language, cultural, and educational barriers. Magnifying these challenges are the cultural and social hurdles students come across adjusting to life in the United States. In the spring of 2010, in response to a needs assessment of refugee students and their families, The Refugee Response initiated its Home Mentoring Program. The goal of this program is to connect refugee students with volunteers who provide tutoring, ESL coaching, and mentorship. The Refugee Response believes these connections are vital for student development. The relationships between students and mentors not only result in increased confidence in English language skills but also increased comfort in new communities.
Our mentors provide individualized attention where it's needed most.
The Refugee Response Home Mentoring Program provides one-on-one mentoring to over fifty refugee students in Cleveland, Ohio. The Refugee Response pairs each refugee student with a volunteer mentor from the community to provide meaningful academic and acculturation support to their student. Students spend two hours once a week after school with a mentor over the course of two academic years before completing the program.
Each home is monitored by the Director of Education who coordinates communication between families, mentors, and school teachers. Mentors work closely with students to strengthen basic literacy and math skills, develop positive habits and attitudes, and serve as advocates for student success between school and home. Mentors spend time developing a relationship with the student and the family to better understand their individual needs and priorities for support, and submit monthly reflections on students’ progress. Mentoring takes place primarily at the student’s home, with opportunities to plan excursions of cultural and educational value to the student.
The benefits to participating in the Home Mentoring program are innumerable.
Refugee students gain confidence academically and socially. Volunteer mentors form lasting relationships with refugee students, and get a window into the cultural practices and rich customs of families from countries as far as Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Syria, and others, found right in their backyards. Cleveland’s communities become interconnected through cross-cultural understanding and a sense of social responsibility. The ultimate benefit of this program is that it provides refugee students with the much needed additional instruction time and the direct one-on-one support that is so critical to personal and academic development.
come from all over the globe and speak over 15 different languages combined.
Many of our refugee families have crossed many borders: fleeing their country of origin as a teenager, starting a family of their own in the refugee camps of a neighboring country, and finding resettlement in a place called Cleveland, Ohio a decade or more after leaving home. Many of the children we work with have never seen their parents' homeland, though their Cleveland homes are alive with the sounds and smells of another place. Our students are eager to understand their English speaking peers, to experience success at school, to make friends, and to simply fit in. Their journey forward starts here in Cleveland.
We work with students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Every year we enroll new families to the program, and pair all school aged children within the family with their own mentor. Refugee families who previously had little contact with their community beyond work and school now have mentors coming and going from the home on different days of the week to meet with their mentee, while providing opportunities to explore resources like the local library, Cleveland’s Metroparks, or even Playhouse Square.
are business managers, chemists, school teachers, nurses, bartenders, retirees, college students, and rocket scientists.
All share a commitment to making a difference in the life of a young person by giving a piece of their time every week to build a connection that transcends boundaries of age, language, and culture.
Volunteers undergo screening and receive training and support from Refugee Response staff before and throughout their mentoring assignment. Mentors have the opportunity to connect with one another at various special events and socials hosted by The Refugee Response over the course of the year. Mentors serving children in the same family stay in close contact and coordinate special outings and cultural events for their refugee family as a group. As a home mentor, you will join a group of fearlessly dedicated volunteers working to make Cleveland a better place for all.