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20 Years of RYSA

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The Refugee Youth Summer Academy in New York celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019. 111 refugee, asylee, asylum-seeking and immigrant students from all over the world joined together in the Lower East Side for an extraordinary six weeks filled with learning, play, and new friends. Supported by dozens of volunteers, teachers, and staff, these students further developed their English, academic, and socio-emotional skillsets throughout RYSA 2019.

Field day fun!

Photo: Cait Griffith-Heritage/IRC/

Each week brought new opportunities and experiences, while following the rhythms of the school year. Field trips rounded out each week, including visits to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of the City of New York, Museo Del Barrio, as well as bowling and roller skating. RYSA even featured a field day! Schoolwide events included an International Food & Fashion Show, a concert, spelling bee, arts Olympics, basketball, and a talent show. There was even a visit to the IRC’s New Roots Community Garden in the Bronx.

RYSA visits the IRC's New Roots Community Garden.

Photo: Cait Griffith-Heritage/IRC.

New and returning teachers brought expertise, dedication, and energy to daily classes in language, mathematics, and other subjects, building on two decades of institutional knowledge. RYSA’s enduring presence as an advocate and instructional resource for New York City’s refugee, asylee, asylum-seeking, and immigrant youth is ensured by these talented individuals and the exceptional volunteers and partner organizations that expand RYSA’s horizons each and every year.

School events bring all RYSA students together in class competitions, games, and challenges.

Photo: Cait Griffith-Heritage/IRC.

Continued partnership with Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) incorporated arts education, including music, dance, storytelling, visual art, and filmmaking. Students of all ages performed their dance and music projects in addition to exhibiting their artwork and films at RYSA’s graduation.

The arts are a cornerstone in RYSA's program design, to the delight of students and staff alike.

Photo: Cait Griffifth-Heritage/IRC.

This year also featured ESL classes for caregivers onsite during the RYSA school day. Caregivers were able to access free ESL support and build community amongst themselves while their students were attending their own classes. This reflects IRC’s investment in all members of refugee, asylee, and immigrant families as they build new lives here in New York City.

Photo: Cait Griffith-Heritage/IRC.

The IRC wishes all RYSA graduates the best of luck in the upcoming school year! If you would like to support the IRC in NY’s youth program, please click here.