Daemen College's Refugee Teen Empowerment Program, which provides mentoring and Regents exam preparation to refugee youth living on Buffalo's West Side, has received a $15,000 grant from the Erie County Youth Services Bureau.
The refugee teen program is intended to help make a high school and college education possible for refugee students who resettle in Buffalo, including many who have fled life-threatening, traumatic circumstances in their home countries. Daemen's program targets junior and senior refugee students attending Lafayette High School and assists in preparing the teens for Regents exams and graduation.
Tutoring sessions are coordinated by the Daemen Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement and the office of service learning, with service learning students serving as tutors and mentors. Last fall, Daemen students contributed 1,040 hours of service to the program.
"Refugee students assisted through the program speak English as a second language and have had minimal formal education, which makes it immensely challenging for them to be successful when they take Regents exams," said Cheryl Bird, executive director of the CSCCE. "Because of this grant, we will be able to continue offering vital support that will assist the students in overcoming these difficulties and go on to achieve their educational goals."
In addition to tutoring and mentoring, program participants are offered enrichment activities, including presentations on the college application process, financial aid, scholarships and SAT preparation. The college also hosts the refugee students for "Daemen Day," where they have the opportunity to tour the campus and learn about the college experience.
Since the program's inception in 2006, it has proven to be highly effective and beneficial to students, including two recent program participants who were named national Gates Millennium Scholars. What's more, for the January 2014 Regents exams, 92 percent of participants increased their grades compared to a previous Regents exam, and 87 percent of the 251 students from the program who took a June 2014 Regents improved their grades.
"This was a wonderful opportunity to help refugee teens who came to a foreign country with no understanding about the educational system whatsoever," shared one Daemen student in feedback gathered from those who assisted with the program.
Another student said, "I loved working with the refugee students. It was a new experience for me and it was nice getting to know the students and helping them. I admire their determination and goals for the future."