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 Youth Mentoring Program.
The goal of the Youth Mentoring Program is to connect refugee students with volunteer mentors in order to help students: achieve their own academic, language and social-emotional goals, nurture a growth mindset, and build confidence in their skills, abilities and identities. Youth mentors are academic tutors, role models and friendly community connections. The Refugee Response believes these connections significantly bolster 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.
Both the individual and group mentoring days strive to build communities which value curiosity, growth mindset, and advocacy.
Our mentors provide individualized attention where it's needed most.
The Refugee Response’s Youth Mentoring Program engages refugee background youth in programming for two hours, twice per week, after school. The majority of students participate in-person at the Refugee Response’s “Learning Lab,” while a small subset of students receive virtual mentoring online via Zoom.
At the Learning Lab, youth work one-on-one with mentors to support academic and social-emotional learning goals once per week. On day two of the weekly programming, Learning Lab youth enjoy a variety of enrichment activities alongside their peers, TRR staff, and community partners. Programming sessions are designed around monthly themes. Both the individual and group mentoring days strive to build communities which value curiosity, growth mindset, and advocacy. The Youth Mentoring Program prioritizes activities inspired and driven by students’ own interests and offers spaces for students to be leaders within a safe learning community. Students graduate from the program after two academic years. This year, the program will serve at least 65 students in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
ONE-ON-ONE MENTORING SESSIONS
Mentors invest in developing a relationship with the student to better understand their individual needs and priorities for support. The Refugee Response’s Mentor Resource Coordinator and Family Liaisons assist the mentor in this process. Commonly identified needs and priorities include: strengthening basic literacy and math skills, developing positive habits and attitudes, and advocating for student success between school and home. The Refugee Response provides mentors with supplemental learning materials such as social emotional learning lessons, paired readings, hands-on activities and games. In addition, mentors often support students with homework.
GROUP MENTORING SESSIONS
Throughout the program cycle, there will be opportunities for mentors to participate in group mentoring days at the Learning Lab, whether that be leading a special workshop, accompanying the group on a field trip, or leading a reading circle. Prospective volunteers who are particularly interested in the Group Mentoring Sessions should mention so during the onboarding process.
The Refugee Response also works closely at the family level, assigning a Community Liaison to each of the client households. Liaisons coordinate communication between families, mentors, schools, and wraparound service providers. In addition to serving youth, the program strives to strengthen parent’s roles as partners in their children’s learning through direct guided practice and the development of informational content in culturally and linguistically accessible ways.
ACADEMIC YEARS OF SUPPORT
commitment is 1 year
The benefits to participating in the Youth 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. Our 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 the refugee families we work with 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 enrolled in our program have never seen their parents' homeland, though their Cleveland homes are alive with the sounds and smells of another place. These 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 continues here in Cleveland.
The Youth Mentoring Program supports children in grades 4 through 8, often enrolling multiple siblings within a single family. Students are referred to Youth Mentoring services annually through existing client and community connections at the Refugee Response, as well as through the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Multilingual Multicultural Education Office.
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 often maintain a connection with one another to share tips, family updates and provide social and emotional support. As a youth mentor, you will join a group of fearlessly dedicated volunteers working to make Cleveland a better place for all.