How a school helps refugees become educated
“Our goal is to set up a safety net, get refugees in classrooms, get them speaking English, get them with teachers. We do not limit what the teachers can do,” says Ms. Alya.
At Salt Lake Community College, school network helps refugees get an education. School Network received a grant from the US Department of State to provide the resources, financial support, and mentorship that help refugees overcome the obstacles that can prevent them from attending high school.
How does School Network succeed?
Safe Way to Learn is a curriculum consisting of digital resources that refugee students can use on their own or with other students. These resources are tailored to refugee learning styles, education environment, languages, and cultural barriers.
“Students will see a difference because they won’t feel so alone,” says Fatima, who now attends and does her homework in English. “Mostly, it helps students realize that there are other students who have experienced what they have.”
The content is also efficient in providing all students with much needed information without the burden of homework assignments, which translates to a quicker learning pace for students.
In addition to the curriculum, School Network makes sure to include mentorship for refugees interested in pursuing a college education. Mentors encourage students to apply to colleges throughout Utah, via Skype-chat or in person. Students can also have one-on-one mentoring with these mentors.
“It can be very hard, especially for students who haven’t previously went to school,” says Fatima. “Sometimes I’m afraid that I won’t make it, but they’re very supportive and help me to do my work.”
Ms. Alya’s Mission
As part of her work in education, Ms. Alya incorporates religious and cultural aspects into the curriculum. She also facilitates discussion groups for refugees to talk about their life experiences.
“I talk with students a lot, and I’m still learning about their stories,” says Fatima. “Sometimes, I want to do workshops, but I don’t know what kind of information I’m going to put into the curriculum. It takes me time to think about what the requirements are for every student.”
In addition to improving students’ skills, she is working to help teachers support refugee students and develop a strong culture of “teacher-student” relationships.
“The teachers are always wonderful, and they have to understand that we have all these other problems outside of school,” she explains. “Truly, our biggest aim is to make the children feel like they belong.”