PRYSE Academy

PRYSE Academy

Pittsburgh Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment (PRYSE) Academy is a free summer day camp for immigrant and refugee youth in middle and high school living in Allegheny County. The goal of the program is to help participants feel safe and welcomed in their new home by supporting them in developing self-confidence, English skills, and engaging in the broader community. The program combines academic classes, creative expression workshops, and sports. 

A day at PRYSE Academy is broken into two major sections: in the morning, students are in counselor-led classrooms learning English and other relevant content areas and in the afternoon post-lunch, they attend interactive workshops or field trips involving arts and creative expression. On various afternoons (on average, 2 days during the week) throughout the program, students and counselors play soccer. Participants are also tasked with developing a personal storytelling project over the course of the three week program which they present on the last day of PRYSE at a public final showcase.


Administering Organization:
Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education

Program Objectives:
PRYSE Academy is ARYSE's flagship program and is an essential strategy to achieving the organization's mission to support immigrant and refugee youth in becoming prepared, engaged, and confident members of the Greater Pittsburgh community. The objectives of PRYSE Academy include: Providing 60 immigrant students with a free summer program that is specifically tailored to support their needs of English language learners (ELLs), Combating summer learning loss among ELLs and preparing them for the new school year,  Creating a safe and fun space for immigrant and refugee youth to feel celebrated and welcome to share their stories, specifically through the arts and creative expression, Foster leadership, civic engagement, and a commitment to social justice among campers and counselors, especially junior counselors who are immigrant or refugee high school youth,  And connecting campers with existing out-of-school-time opportunities and mentorship throughout the school year. ARYSE and our program PRYSE Academy were created to address the marginalization of refugee students in their schools and in their wider communities. When schools do offer English as a Second Language curricula, this often segregates immigrant students from the mainstream school system, and ESL programs do not extend to after school and summer activities. We serve to bridge the gap by offering English language instruction to prepare students for the upcoming school year, using creative expression projects to facilitate storytelling, and developing leadership skills through civic engagement opportunities. PRYSE continues to be the only summer program in the region dedicated specifically to English language learners, and recognizing the wide needs in the community, is open to all immigrant students, regardless of their status. 

Resource Materials:
We partner with organizations and experts in Pittsburgh to guide counselors in developing curriculum for their classrooms. For example, we rely on experts in the areas of best practices in teaching ESL, musical theater, dance, visual arts, and slam poetry, who lead workshops with our students and counselors.

Groups Served by Program:
PRYSE students represent a wide range of immigrant communities in Pittsburgh. Over the course of 5 years we have served students from Congo, Somalia, Mexico, El Salvador, Bhutan, Sierra Leone, Cote D'Ivoire, Burma, Syria, Iraq, Guatemala, and Uzbekistan. 

Program Funding:
In 2013, our program ran with $4,000 and was powered by a group of volunteers. This past summer, in 2017, we operated on a $30,000 budget which gave us the ability to provide counselors with volunteer stipends, take students on field trips, purchase healthy foods, and have ample materials for student projects.

Program Staffing and Training:
ARYSE recruits 11 counselors to lead the program: 2 directors, 3 junior counselors (immigrant or refugee high school youth), and 6 senior counselors (typically college students with interest and experience in tutoring and mentoring ELLs). Counselors are required to attend a week-long training where they learn about immigrant communities in Pittsburgh, tools for setting their classrooms up for success, restorative practices, trauma-informed care, and best practices in mentoring.

Program Evaluation:
PRYSE campers and counselors take pre and post camp surveys. We also observe the number of students who present their work at the final showcase on the last day of PRYSE as a measurement of students' confidence.

Program Outcomes:
We have yet to assess the results from the pre and post camp surveys (literally on this day, 11/18, our staff are transcribing the information for our final report), but our anticipated outcomes include: 100% of campers report that their English skills in reading, writing, and speaking improve,  100% of campers develop a final project that they present at the PRYSE Academy Final Showcase (which takes place on the last day of programming),  At least 85% of students feel more confident about their ability to succeed in school,  And as a result of a week-long training and experience during the program, 100% of counselors report feeling more skilled in classroom and behavior management and teaching English language learners. 

Program Contact:
Jenna Baron 570-332-2955

Program Dates:
PRYSE Academy was founded in 2013 and is still operating as of 2017.

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