JFS supports school-aged refugee youth and their parents to thrive, from initial arrival, to school enrollment, to finding opportunities for success outside of the classroom.
Biru* came to the United States with her younger sister and brother in March of 2019. An extremely intelligent 11 year old, in love with school, JFS staff assisted her and her younger sister to enroll in Springfield Public Schools. A Swahili-speaking staff member accompanied the children to their schools and helped them know their way around. Shortly after their enrollment, staff helped both children enroll in summer camp at the Jewish Community Center, attended summer camp for free using child care vouchers provided by the state. Though camp was a joy, and Biru learned to swim (proudly going from a red bracelet to a white bracelet meaning she was a proficient swimmer), she missed school and the classroom.
During the school year, Biru was clearly beginning to shine. JFS connected her with a local neighborhood volunteer in Springfield to help her with homework once a week. The volunteer was connected directly with her teacher and knew what she could help them work on. Biru was also connected with a local Girl Scout Troupe and was able to attend, on scholarship, Nature’s Classroom to experience Massachusetts outdoors. After the pandemic hit, Biru and her sister were provided “Camp in a Box” to have ready made activities, and an activity book, to get them through a strange summer. When she turns 15 years old, JFS hopes to enroll her in our Refugee Youth Mentor Program to connect her with a mentor to help her reach her goals long-term.
Refugee youth are resilient, and arrive to the U.S. with strong communication and coping skills. They also arrive with overwhelming familial expectations, and critical gaps in their education and English capabilities. From their initial arrival and school enrollment, to finding opportunities for them to thrive outside of the classroom, JFS aims to support school-aged New Americans to thrive. JFS works in strong partnership with Springfield Public Schools, West Springfield Public Schools, and other area school districts to make sure youth and their parents are strongly connected to their teachers and classrooms. Staff and volunteers also connect with youth outside of the classroom through tutoring and becoming mentors to refugee high schoolers and young adults. Mentoring relationships are essential for young people as they figure out their paths and their future.