RISE: Refugee and Immigrant Student Education
A Peacemaking Project by Fatima C.
What is the injustice we are solving?
RISE works to connect, engage, and empower the New Haven immigrant and refugee community. We foster inclusion and tolerance through weekly in-school and in-home tutoring visits and monthly community engagement events. Oftentimes immigrants and refugees with limited English knowledge are ignored by the school system due to the lack of resources for non-native English speakers. We work to create equity within the system by having tutors with knowledge of a variety of languages matched to students for these weekly sessions. The school curriculum does not allow for creative learning or practice with spoken learning while taking into consideration emotional needs. Academics set the stage for success later in life, and if inequities are allowed to continue in these early stages, they will be inevitable later in life. We want to work to address these issues on a grass-roots level by creating educational equity from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of Immigrant and Refugee Education Inequity
we will address ELL Needs in a Holistic Manner in Public Schools
by Weekly in-school and in-home tutoring sessions with matched language skills to provide personalized education for these disadvantaged youth
Our Project Plan:
- Improve tutor training
- Create more opportunities for experience based learning for our students
- Focus on emotional and social needs of students
- Create community within school to eliminate ethnic barriers
- Continue spreading impact beyond current schools and families
We will increase my / our compassion by...
We would like to increase our compassion by increasing community awareness of the issues surrounding immigrants and refugees. By creating community support for these youth, we will be able to create opportunities for engagement. Empowerment comes from this type of support, and we hope to continue with our mission with this in mind.
How will you show courage?
We plan to show courage by standing up for our beliefs and working to create an equitable education system. Despite the hardships of the process of change, we have fully committed ourselves to making a difference on an individual and community level.
How will you collaborate with others?
We collaborate with local schools and families to organize tutoring sessions with families. In addition, we work with the local immigrant and refugee organizations for community engagement and fulfilling needs as possible.
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
If even one person feels that they have benefitted from SOS's work, then we will continue to work and adapt until our students feel as though they have been given a fair chance to succeed. When our students gain hope for their own futures, we will feel as though we have made a difference.
- Continue fostering working relationships with families, schools, and local organizations
- Take student and teacher input into account when designing our curriculum
- Provide academic resources and supplies geared towards ELL students
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
It is easy to look at statistics concerning immigrants and refugees, but the individual stories have a strong effect on making the cause personal. A particularly emotional time was the recent election, which concerned the students we work with. Hearing children's confused concern about the election was heartbreaking and made their education and inclusion within the community all the more important. Empowering these youth is essential because their experiences will create great leaders and adults within their own interests. Without creating equity within the education system, these children will be left behind. Their passions and interests will be left behind. We cannot let this happen, and as we have worked with these students, we have seen their drive and passion. They have the motivation to succeed, but they do need an equal playing field. The injustice is rooted deep within the system, and we want to address this by empowering these youth.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
We have seen youth feeling as though they can attend college. They feel that they can achieve their childhood dreams. They feel like people care about them as individuals. They bond with their tutors, and they feel welcomed within the community. This has created change in terms of community awareness, engagement, and inclusion.
How many people were impacted by your project?
Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?
The individuals impacted are the community members we work to serve which are the students at our 6 partner schools and the many families we coordinate our weekly sessions with. We work with students in different public schools in the area, families, and a new ESL class for parents unable to attend others because of young children by having a babysitting group simultaneously.
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
New Haven is a sanctuary city, which means that a large portion of incoming immigrants and refugees reside within the city. After the refugee crises of the past years, it became impossible not to address these issues and making a difference in some way. A small committed group came together, and now we are a group of 60+ undergraduate students working to empower the students and families that we work with.
What did your team learn?
We have learned that it is a long and hard process to implement effective change. We have learned about the many layers of support necessary for change to occur. We have learned about the best ways to consult with schools and other community partners. We are all working towards the same goals of empowering all students, and creating opportunities for all to work together has been a very rewarding challenge.
What challenges did your team overcome?
Organization and coordination are the biggest challenges our team has overcome. Coordinating with over-worked and under-resourced public schools and organizations has been difficult without proper working relationships. Establishing those relationships took time and effort, but we have managed to successfully implement our program and are working towards improvement and cohesion.
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
The program is run independently with the students involved. The curriculum is designed by a small group of students, and it is then implemented within small-group or one-on-one sessions. Organization of community events, tutoring sessions, and other logistical features are done by students, as well. This could not be completed without the support and assistance of the New Haven public schools and IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) primarily. Our organization is a Yale student organization, and the support from the university has been essential in carrying out and expanding this project. There is a range of other smaller organizations and individuals that have supported our endeavor, and we are very grateful to all of these parties.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
Starting small is the key focus. We have grown exponentially in the past year, but we started with many ten students in a small library classroom, and now we have expanded throughout New Haven and potentially further in the future.
Successful weekly tutoringFor the past three semesters, we have managed to have successful pairings between tutors and students. At the end of this semester, we have managed to reach over 60 tutors with a variety of language abilities that serve over 200 immigrants and refugees within the greater New Haven area. Weekly sessions have resulted in improvement of English ability and eased transitions. The students, teachers, and families have enjoyed the project thus far. We create community events to bring together these different groups and foster inclusivity. Our last event was a community picnic, and there was a successful turnout of families and tutors.
SOS Name Change to RISE: Refugee and Immigrant Student EducationRISE (formerly known as SOS: Students of Salaam) is a Yale University-based organization dedicated to empowering immigrant and refugee youth in New Haven through language-based education and community engagement. Yale tutors are matched with students and families based on language to attend weekly sessions in-school or in-home to work with their assigned students. The in-school tutors work with a curriculum designed by RISE, while the in-home tutors are provided resources to assist them and their students in their educational journey. Our organization began with after-school tutoring with a small group of students at a local library and with dedicated work, we have grown to where we are today.
We currently work in a multitude of public schools and family homes through these weekly sessions with our team of over 50 tutors. As we have expanded, the diversity of our tutors and students has grown. Currently, the main languages we work with are Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Dari, Pashto, and Swahili. For this reason, the Board has decided to move forward with changing the name of the New Haven-based organization from SOS to RISE, with the support of Yale Administration. The word 'Salaam' (Arabic for 'peace') often confuses non-members and those who have not interacted with the group before; it implies that our tutors are all Arabic-speaking or that we only have Muslim tutors/tutees. Given that SOS works with a diverse group of languages and nationalities, having this word in the group name is no longer representative of our tutors or the refugees and immigrants we work with. The acronym SOS is, historically, an international Morse code distress signal. In maritime navigation, it stands for "Save Our Souls" or "Save Our Ship." While we acknowledge this is not what may come to many people's minds immediately, we prefer our name to reflect a more neutral tone. For all purposes, the organization working in New Haven will now be referred to as RISE, and the new logo reflecting this change is below. The email has been updated, and the new address is email@example.com. The website is currently undergoing updates, and we will be going live with a new site within the coming weeks. We would like to thank you all for your generous support, and we would like to clarify that our mission has not changed. Our weekly activities and our community events will continue as they did prior to the name change. This is simply a rebranding to more accurately reflect what we do and the populations we work with. Thank you for your support, and we are excited to move forward with our work through this rebranding.