As head coordinator of The Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment Program (BRYTE), a one-on-one in-home tutoring program matching 125 Brown students with 125 refugee youth, Senior Fellow Jesse McGleughlin recognized the need for summer programming for refugee children.
“Summer learning loss is a critical issue affecting low-income urban youth. This is especially true for refugee youth who enter the Providence Public School system. Many refugee youth have had interrupted schooling or no formal schooling in their native countries.”
In fact, Jesse had been a part of BRYTE years earlier assisting their half-day summer program for refugee youth, but found it limiting. Students required more assistance to expanding their literacy skills, which she saw as necessary for them to be able to access resources and self-advocate.
This propelled her to expand this half-day summer program into a six-week full-day English language acquisition camp for refugee youth in Summer 2012. She raised $12,000, found a camp space, hired a staff of college students, developed curriculum, implemented small classes and planned field trips for the participants. A priority for Jesse was incorporating teenagers from the refugee community in leadership roles in order to build their confidence, sense of self and belief that Providence could be a home for them.
A priority for Jesse was incorporating teenagers from the refugee community in leadership roles in order to build their confidence, sense of self and belief that Providence could be a home for them.
After developing and running this camp in the Summer of 2012, Jesse wanted to expand the program to include refugee high school students. For her Action Project, she returned to BRYTE Camp to lead workshops with refugee teenagers and build a program model in which younger refugee students saw that they could grow into counselors and eventually run the program.
The goal of Jesse’s Action Project was to equip these teenagers with the resources to teach younger students and become leaders in their own community. Since these teens are closer in age to the campers and have experienced resettlement in the United States, Jesse noticed their potential as valuable mentors to younger refugee youth. Yet, when developing this program, she recognized that refugee teenagers could also benefit from focused support, supervision and programming.
The goal of Jesse’s Action Project was to equip these teenagers with the resources to teach younger students and become leaders in their own community.
In the Summer of 2014, nine refugee teenagers worked as teachers and mentors through BRYTE’s Junior Counselor Program. The program model had two components:
- to provide refugee teenagers with the skills to become effective mentors and teachers; and
- to provide these teens with a safe space to talk about systems of power and oppression.
Each Junior Counselor was paired with a Senior Counselor for literacy and math classes and designed and taught curriculumfor one-hour per week, taking on significant leadership roles in the classroom. In order to ensure that Junior Counselors had the necessary support to design and teach curriculum, Jesse provided these teens with training, met with each student once per week individually and visited them in the classroom to provide them with ample feedback.
Jesse also designed and led workshops to explore power, privilege, systems of oppression and resistance through conversation, writing exercises and activities. These workshops included personal discussions on the way students understood their own identities intertwined with discussions on racism, classism and sexism. In addition, Jesse led an activity on food deserts and unequal access to resources in Providence, RI as well as framed conversations around resistance and protest through the Civil Rights Movement. When the BRYTE Junior Counselor Program finished, Jesse invited a college advisor to lead workshops on college access, resume writing, public speaking and interview skills for them to take on afterwards.
BRYTE Camp is committed to empowering refugee teenagers to lead their communities. According to one participant, they learned how “to solve some problems such as racism, classism, ageism… in the community”.