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Equity & Diversity

A Refugee Resettlement Agency Offers Summer Classes

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 29, 2010 1 min read

A refugee resettlement organization is using federal funds to run an educational program for refugee children this summer in New York City. The classes in English literacy and math are being taught on the Bushwick High School campus in Brooklyn, but the New York City Department of Education isn’t in charge of the program. The International Rescue Committee, or IRC, a nonprofit organization and refugee resettlement agency is running the program with a “refugee school impact” grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to James Lenton, the director of the IRC’s New York youth program.

The program’s main objective is to prepare refugee children for school who have just arrived in New York City, said Lenton. Many have had interruptions in their formal education, he said.

About 120 students are enrolled this summer for the educational program that started July 6 and finishes Aug. 13. The students include Tibetans, Bhutanese, Burmese, Iraqis, and Liberians. In the morning, students work on their English and math skills. In the afternoon, they participate in creative arts and recreational activities.

About a dozen students enrolled in the summer program can’t read or write in their native language, said Elizabeth A. Demchak, the education services officer for the IRC’s New York youth program, in a phone interview this month.

She said that the six teachers in the summer program aim to help students to start to adjust to some of the expectations of U.S. schooling such as to work in cooperative groups, give oral presentations, and produce written work. Many come from school systems where teachers typically lecture and students listen, she said.

I include information about this program on the blog to remind educators that refugee resettlement organizations can be partners with schools in helping newcomers to adjust to the U.S. education system.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.