At the end of May, LSG's After School Program for refugee youth at Clarkston High School wrapped up its first year. The program offers academic enrichment, science and technology lessons, literacy development, and English instruction along with trauma resiliency work to help children who have arrived as refugees thrive in a Western school environment.
"They work very hard to fit in the school while they adjust to a new environment and learn a new language. Our program understands those challenges and ensures that each student gets the necessary support that they all need," says Nur Abdi, case manager, LSG.
Here are few highlights from the year:
- All participants received tutoring to help with their English skills and increase their understanding and abilities in various academic subjects. Many of the teens who participated regularly in the program saw their grades go from Ds and Fs to As and Bs. As their confidence and abilities grew, many began to think about their future and consider college as one of the avenues available to them.
- In addition, students had opportunities to learn while having fun through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) projects. They were also introduced to books that were chosen just for them; books that fit their reading level and included stories of refugees and immigrants that they could relate to. One particular teenage girl from Rwanda, who had never shown an interest in reading or other school work, became enthralled when she was introduced to a novel focusing on a refugee like herself. After this book sparked an interest in reading, she asked if she could take some books home with her to read and share with her family.
- Participants in the After School Program also had a chance to grow and cook their own food! During Garden Fridays, students worked on planting and tending a vegetable garden. At the end of the year, students took a field trip to Fresh Harvest Garden, where they learned about chickens, how they are raised and maintained and egg production. They also learned about annuals and perennials, what you can do with different herbs for medicinal purposes, different uses for vegetables and herbs in their daily lives with cooking, as well as how a business is run.
- Throughout the year, we had several speakers talk to the teens about various topics that are relevant to teens in America and teens who have experienced significant trauma in their lives. One speaker came to talk to the group about cyber bullying. The students learned about conflict resolution and how to use their voice and establish healthy boundaries with others. One boy who was being targeted online was able to use the lessons from the program to find his voice, work through his problem and stop the bullying.
- The teens in the program found support and friendship in one another. Though many of them have been through similar circumstances and experienced similar traumas, their different ethnicities and different native languages would have otherwise kept them separate. Through the After School Program, they began to get to know others who were different from them but shared many of the same hopes, dreams and fears. Many friendships grew between the teens and offered a great support system for them outside the program.
We look forward to next year's After School program and seeing the lives that will be touched in various ways.