IRC Hosts Successful Back to School Event
The back to school time can be both an exciting and anxious time for many families. Buying school supplies, learning new class schedules, and keeping safe are often on the top of the list of things to think about and even more so when English isn’t your family’s first language. That is why the IRC Youth Program in Baltimore works every year with the Refugee Youth Project (RYP) of Baltimore City Community College, Soccer Without Borders (SWB), the Goodnow Community Center, the Frankford Improvement Association, Northeast Middle School, Sinclair Lane Elementary, and Moravia Park Elementary to coordinate this event where families can come to hear presentations about those topics with interpretation in their native language.
This year’s event was the largest yet. Our 2009 event had about 86 refugee students and their parents in attendance. Our 2010 event had about 150 refugee students and their parents in attendance. Our 2011 event had about 240 refugee students and their parents in attendance. This year, in 2012, we had a grand total of 400 students and their parents attending the event! RYP and SWB were crucial to the event being able to accommodate such a large number of people because these two organizations led arts and soccer activities, respectively, for the students outside the Goodnow Community Center while their parents attended presentations inside.
The presenters rotated through rooms of Nepalese, Arabic, Tigrinya, and Swahili interpretation so that families could listen and ask questions in their native language. Northeast Middle School, Sinclair Lane Elementary, and Moravia Park Elementary staff presented together as one group to share important information about the upcoming school year and answer any parents’ questions. A Frankford Improvement Association representative presented about community safety and encouraged positive community integration amongst the various ethnic groups in the neighborhood. An IRC staff person presented on the various services that IRC and its partner organizations are providing for families. The event concluded with the distribution of school supplies to all 400 students in plastic bags donated by the local M&T bank branch. Many students were very excited to receive their free school supplies and the families were more prepared to start a new school year.