Refugee Acculturation, Education, Civic Engagement & Health-REACH

Refugee Acculturation, Education, Civic Engagement & Health-REACH

Through REACH, IRC has established key program components in addition to intensive case management to remove or alleviate these barriers through the following programs. Monday – Saturday Tutoring: While there are important resources offered during the school day, refugee students still face significant academic challenges owing to both their limited English proficiency but also, for many, multiple interruptions in their formal education. Because of these real academic skill deficits, struggling students simply need more academic support and as such, the REACH program includes five days a week of after school tutoring and Saturday morning tutoring. This program makes extensive use of volunteers acting as teachers’ aides by leading small group work activities with a tutor-to-student ratio of 1:3. The incorporation of trained volunteers significantly expands the opportunities for individualized tutoring and assistance which not only supports targeted academic skill development but also allows for trusting, positive relationships to be built among the students and the volunteers. By assisting with homework as well as English language acquisition, the youth are able to maintain their grades while continuing to improve their English. Working in conjunction with the International Center’s teachers and coaches, the new arrival tutoring helps fill the gap left by the expectation from the American education system that parents play a substantive role in helping their children complete their homework. As part of weekly tutoring, the REACH program includes weekly College Preparatory services by trained staff and volunteers that assists refugee youth in completing all prerequisites for entering a post-secondary education including one-on-one application, scholarship, and financial aid support. 
Refugee Girls Academy/Peacemakers: Both Refugee Girls Academy (RGA) and Peacemakers are Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) focused programs that help youth develop the tools to focus, regulate their emotional responses, interact with others, and cope with stress and challenges. Neuroscience has revealed that youth who experience the types of adversity common in crisis settings can have a physiological response that inhibits their brain development, affecting their physical and mental health, cognition, behavior, and relationships. Years of research shows that SEL interventions can counteract the effects of this adversity and chronic stress. RGA and Peacemakers center on the development of five key social emotional competencies: Brain Building, Emotion Regulation, Positive Social Skills, Conflict Resolution, and Perseverance. RGA incorporates SEL into a model that also helps refugee girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; develop values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision-making; and contribute to the improvement of society through their abilities, leadership skills, and cooperation with others. Girls develop these skills through a range of in-class and exploratory excursions which challenge the girls in unique and meaningful ways. Much like RGA, Peacemakers centers on the development of five key SEL competencies listed above and invests in inspiring and empowering youth to share their powerful stories, promote cross-cultural learning, and bring communities together. To this end, the Peacemakers program consists of classroom training on global conflict, peace building, and public speaking. Participants in the IRC Peacemakers refine their ability to think critically about their unique experiences as refugees and improve their method of communicating their stories through public speaking, advocacy and community service. Students gain a historical context of global conflict and become aware of how their own home country’s conflict is perceived by outsiders. IRC Peacemakers are trained as leaders and become ambassadors by directly educating their new communities about their past experiences, their transition to life in the US, and their future goals. Both Refugee Girls Academy and Peacemakers are held once a week with monthly weekend excursions.  
Job Club: The Job Club curriculum utilized by the REACH program blends a field-tested, population-specific curriculum specifically designed for English Language Learning youth. The Job Club instructor incorporates varied instructional techniques including: activity and scenario-based learning, peer-learning and technology-enhanced instruction that aligns their education with relevant, real-world exposure. Participants who complete the class will be well prepared to: learn new skills and to take responsibility for their own learning on the job; apply skills in a variety of contexts, including work, home, and community; prepare an effective resume; interview for an entry-level position; model soft skills in a work-setting including appropriate professional communication, conflict management, and customer service; and develop a greater understanding of their career path skills and interests.  
Summer Refugee Academy: This Academy is an intensive 4-week program that offers 20 rising 9th grade middle school students the opportunity to partake in a wide range of academic, community service and civic engagement activities, leadership experiences, and peer-centered activities that encourage participants to practice respect for themselves, their peers, and the communities where they live. For the first 2 hours of each day, youth will participate in IRC’s foundational English class on-site in the IRC classroom. Following the class, students will participate in workshops and fieldtrips which focus on youth development through community service, leadership and peer-centered team building, and out-of-class education. 
LET’s HIKE/Community Service: LET’s HIKE (Leading and Educating Teens to Help, Investigate, and Keep the Environment) introduces natural surroundings to refugee youth in a safe and meaningful way through the weaving of environmental education and stewardship lessons. Furthermore, LETS’s HIKE will implement hands-on, on-site scientific content to help refugees with interrupted formal education meet next generation science standards of San Diego Unified School District. To increase proficiency in next generation science standards for refugees identified as Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) using sheltered instruction strategies while supporting trail maintenance/construction, erosion control, and habitat improvement of Mission Trails Regional Park and in the City Heights Canyon loop.


Administering Organization:
International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Program Objectives:
The REACH program provides holistic services to high school-aged refugee youth in the low-income communities of City Heights and El Cajon. REACH's focus is on newly arrived refugee youth who are navigating the tense process of resettlement and processing war or other trauma, while learning a new language and culture. These barriers, if not properly addressed, can severely limit a refugee youth's ability to thrive in their new home. Through REACH, IRC has established key program components in addition to intensive case management to remove or alleviate these barriers. 

Resource Materials:
Material used in program is self generated or adopted from overseas education programming.

Groups Served by Program:
One of the biggest challenges refugee children commonly face is a lack of English language skills and formal schooling. This is especially true in City Heights and El Cajon, where the refugee communities include Burmese, Somali, Syrian, Iraq, and many other East and Central African populations. These populations are characterized by students with interrupted formal education (SIFE) who are facing a substantial gap in education level for their age and encounter substantial barriers in addressing this gap -- especially in the U.S. education system which relies on parents to play a significant role in helping with homework. Importantly, International Center ESL classes are offered at both Crawford and Hoover High Schools, and they are a key first step, but they do not fully address the additional needs of these students. Lack of English and limited schooling makes it exceptionally difficult for many refugee children to fully catch up and meet high school graduation requirements in a timely manner. Equally challenging for many refugee youth, is the trauma and severe adversity they have faced, including poverty, displacement, and violence. Crisis and conflict have direct and profound effects on a youth's physical safety, well-being and ability to learn. This compounds with the already high levels of chronic-stress associated with the resettlement and acculturation process. As families work to rebuild their lives in the United States, refugee youth often bear the brunt of the struggle. Young people are pressured to learn English quickly, get a high school diploma, secure employment to assist families financially, care for younger siblings, and translate for non-English speaking family members. At the same time, refugee youth, like all teenagers, are experiencing the changes and emotions that coincide with adolescence. Without additional support, refugee youth are easily overwhelmed by the pressures put on them by their family and school, which may result in negative social conduct or dropping out of school.  

Program Funding:
The REACH Program has a very diverse funding portfolio made up of state, county, philanthropic, and foundation support. 

Program Staffing and Training:
Youth Program Manager  Youth Programs Supervisor Senior Instructional Specialist   Youth Program Coordinator 1,2,3  

Program Evaluation:
Evaluation is conducted in collaboration with school districts looking at attendance, retention and graduation rates as well as post-secondary and employment placement rates. Gains in Social/Emotional health are evaluated through an SDQ pre, progress, and post assessments. 

Program Outcomes:
93% graduation rate and 84% post-secondary or employment placement. 

Program Contact:
Mitch Johnson

Program Dates:
The began in 2016 year and is still operating as of March 2018.

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