RYSA collage

RYSA is Back!

The IRC in NJ was so excited for the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA) program to return in-person. This year's RYSA summer program ran for three weeks, with nearly 100 registered newcomers entering Kindergarten through 12th grade.

This summer's theme was C.A.R.E which stands for community, attitude, respect, and empathy. C.A.R.E was integrated into staff training and inspired teachers to encourage classroom spirit!

New Arrivals

More than ever, the Education & Learning (E&L) team prepared newly arrived refugee children and youth for success at their grade level in the New Jersey public school system. This year, the IRC in NJ saw more first-year arrivals attending RYSA than in previous cycles. Many of these students missed their spring enrollment or only joined a few months at their public school. With this gap, many parents were worried about their child's education.

About the RYSA Curriculum

The RYSA curriculum was designed to support students in a cohesive, community-driven classroom. E&L team's goal was to ensure students, especially first-year arrivals, had access to a safe space and trauma-informed learning.

The program brought social-emotional learning, arts & crafts, and a culturally responsive curriculum to support students' English acquisition and social-academic skills in just three weeks.

Fun community events included trips to the Alstede Farms, Trailside Nature Reserve, and the Liberty Science Center. These were complemented by mindfulness activities, integrated social-emotional support, and arts education.



Hear from the perspective of two parents

One father could not enroll his son in school this spring or a school-affiliated summer enrichment program. His two children had not attended school in Afghanistan for two years because of the pandemic and crisis. With this gap, the father was concerned about their transition into this fall's academic school year. The father was happy to hear from the Youth Program Coordinator about the RYSA program and its school readiness model. After the first week, his children became more interested in painting, were more active, and were excited to go to school. They especially enjoyed the trip to the Liberty Science Center and the farm!

A mother felt RYSA prepared her child for the academic year, as it was her first time attending school. During the second week, they adjusted to the routine of getting ready for class. By the end of the program, her daughter promptly got ready for school. She enjoyed the trip to the Alstede Farms, where she played with the farm animals and picked blueberries.


The IRC in NJ is proud of its peer-mentors and the contribution they bring to the classrooms.

One peer-mentor from last year's online RYSA program became a teaching assistant this summer.

Ashley shares:

I enjoyed the language learning games and trips to the park, and RYSA was back in-person. We (staff) built more trust and connection to support students with their questions and challenges. As a teaching assistant, I see the teaching elements in more detail and become a resource for our students. One student was timid, and during our theater class, she opened up about her favourite music bands. We connected on music, and now she is not afraid to ask for help. I was so proud of her.







Many students will enroll in schools where they will likely meet only a few students from their country. This scenario is often the case in large districts... With this in mind, the IRC in NJ is happy that students met friends and built their confidence, which they will bring to their academic school year!

Having fun at RYSA!
Having fun at RYSA!
Photo: IRC in NJ