John Legend Visits the Refugee Youth Summer Academy
On July 7th, 2011, the IRC in New York’s Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA) welcomed musician John Legend and his guest, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, Dennis Walcott, to tour classrooms, and sit down to lunch with the IRC’s Leaders In Training.
John Legend, a serious advocate for children’s education, is one the IRC’s new Voices – stars using their voices to raise awareness about the plight of refugees. Mr. Legend took time in between concerts in Boston and Indianapolis to visit RYSA in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He attended Lower and Upper Elementary classes, participated in an English Language Arts class with Junior High students and enjoyed an intimate lunch with five IRC Leaders In Training, currently serving as Peer Counselors. They talked about their personal journeys transitioning to school and life in the United States, and how attending RYSA helped them to gain confidence as well as classroom skills. Of the Leaders In Training, Mr. Legend reflected: “They’ve gone through the program, and learned a lot, and started to become successful in their own public school environments. But they decided to come back and give their summer to help younger people who are going through the same thing they went through. That is really inspiring for me.” The Refugee Youth Summer Academy prepares newly arrived refugee youth ages 5 to 19 to succeed in New York City public schools.
For the majority of RYSA’s over 120 students from more than 20 countries, English is a new language; many have had their education interrupted for months or years at a time due to violence and displacement; some have never been to school. RYSA models the public school experience – exposing students to the rules, routines, expectations, and instructional strategies they will encounter come September. Yet RYSA offers a level of support not found in a typical classroom. The rigorous six-week curriculum is taught in English, by NYC Department of Education teachers experienced with English Language Learners; but each class is also supported by an Assistant teacher and several peer counselors, many of whom are alumni of the program.
With staff that speak all of the students’ languages, and active engagement of parents, including on-site English as a Second Language classes and native language story hours, the Refugee Youth Summer Academy creates a nurturing learning community to which students can always return for support.
To view a short video of John Legend's visit, click here