The Refugee Education Center
Refugee Education Center supports refugees in their journey to become fully participating members of the West Michigan community.
The Refugee Education Center is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Grand Rapids, MI that exists to support agency support refugees in their journey to become fully participating members of the West Michigan community.. The education-centered organization was founded in 2006 by a passionate group of Somali Bantu refugees who, as an ethnic group in their native country, were persecuted and prohibited to receive formal education. Upon arrival to the United States, community leaders recognized the incredible new opportunity to receive education and participate in the community as equals. They organized and created what is now the Refugee Education Center with the vision of supporting refugee children in West Michigan as they began their new education in a foreign land. Since 2006, our programs and services have expanded to address additional needs of families - serving over 4,500 refugees along the way. Through this, our vision has stayed the same. It has been, and is, central to the organization to share the knowledge learned from a first-person perspective of navigating the education system and refugee services and ultimately supporting the tens of thousands of refugees who call West Michigan home
We are educators at the core, but we know that life is complex, and every story unique. That’s why we address the needs of not only the students we serve, but the whole family, focused around three core pillars of post-resettlement support:
EDUCATION - We were founded on a belief that education is a gift and an opportunity. We acknowledge unique needs of refugee students and design our programs and services to coincide with traditional education in order that students may excel academically at an equitable rate as their American-born peers - and prepare for success in their new homeland.
FAMILY STABILITY - Many complex barriers can interrupt the lives of refugee families. Whether it's a health and safety crisis, job loss, housing challenge or other life-challenge, our team is equipped to walk alongside refugees in these challenges, providing direct support or vital referrals to local social service agencies and programs.
CULTURE AND BELONGING - For many, the United States poses culturally challenging situations that differ from their birth-countries. We seek to prepare refugees to successfully engage with their new culture while also retaining their own cultural identity, values, and traditions.
OUR PROGRAM SERVICES
PROJECT FAULU - Our cornerstone K-12 support program for refugee students, Project Faulu, focuses on literacy and language acquisition, STEM/STEAM curriculum, and socio-emotional wellbeing. The afterschool program is designed specifically for children whose cultural adjustments and past trauma can make learning difficult. Through one-on-one tutoring and peer support groups, our goal is that each student is supported for academic success and social wellbeing.
B.R.I.D.G.E.S. - Building Refugee Independence and Delivering Guidance for Educational Success is designed for newly resettled refugee children who have yet to enter a US classroom. We provide a safe and welcoming environment for kids to prepare for their K-12 education and relieve anxiety prior to entering a classroom. The program exposes kids to new topics, themes, and culture they will encounter in their new school. Our goal is that each participating student is prepared to start school on the right foot!
GRADUATE & GROW - Graduate & Grow offers broad, individualized support for high school aged students of refugee backgrounds. Through the program, students receive age-out support, graduation plans, mentorship and guidance in order to prepare them to graduate with a traditional High School Diploma, as well as for a successful transition into a career, trade school, and/or post-secondary education.
REFUGEE NAVIGATORS - Who better to provide guidance and support than someone who has “been there, done that.” For newly arriving refugees, whether one has recently resettled in the United States or has moved from another part of the country, Navigators are a welcoming, familiar face in an unfamiliar place. Navigators, who come from a refugee background themselves, share their lived experiences and are trusted partners, providing guidance through the maze of government and private support systems in the foundational areas that best prepare a person (or family) for long-term integration and full participation.
HANDS CONNECTED - Hands Connected is a one-of-a-kind program that provides children of refugee background, aged 0-5, with culturally responsive and multi-lingual pre-K — taught by refugee educators. Its primary purpose is to support children’s development in order that they may develop at the same rate as their American-born peers. Additionally, this program creates economic opportunities for refugee adults through direct employment and for those who are learning or working elsewhere and are in need of quality childcare. Hands Connected consists of the Center and the Home-based Educator Network.
We walk alongside refugees in the post-settlement phase of their journey —continuing services for however long it takes to provide the tools and remove the barriers to fully participate in the community.
+ 80% of enrolled K-12 students showed an increase in at least one letter-grade in one subject or more
+ 100% of enrolled K-12 students showed growth in cultural adjustment as determined by pre- and post- surveys
+ 97% of enrolled K-12 students showed an improved Reading Improvement Score
+ 82% of enrolled K-12 students showed improvement in WIDA Scores (English learners)
+ 93% of 0-3 year old students passed Brigance Screening (child development & Kindergarten readiness)
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