This year marked the 19th Refugee Youth Summer Academy, or RYSA at the IRC in NY. The six week program empowers refugee, asylee, and immigrant students from ages 5 to 20 to prepare for the upcoming school year. RYSA incorporates English language learning, socio-emotional support and classroom familiarity throughout its academic and social curriculum. This year’s theme was DREAM Team, representing five core values of Determination, Respect, Empathy, Accountability, and Mindfulness, which were reinforced from the first day of the academy through RYSA graduation.
This year, RYSA welcomed 111 students, who were organized into six groups: three upper school and three lower school classes. 2018’s students were from all over the world, including Guinea, Senegal, Venezuela, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Yemen and Ukraine. RYSA’s trained staff of over 90 teachers, volunteer instructors, volunteers and administrative staff held weekly community events, like a spelling bee and an international food and fashion show to celebrate RYSA students’ cultures and school success.
To help students explore their new home city, RYSA held a field trip each Friday, including visits to the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park, New Roots Community Garden, Brooklyn Bridge Park and a scavenger hunt in Lower Manhattan. All of these efforts were coordinated to encourage positive attitudes towards school, motivation to achieve, and self-confidence to build a strong foundation for scholastic success.
Students also visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island through a generous partnership with TripAdvisor, who are advocates for recent arrivals interacting with the many cultural experiences their new home cities offer. For some RYSA students, it was their first time on a boat and certainly their first opportunities to visit these American landmarks. It was a beautiful sunny day as students of all ages connected with New York and the U.S.’s history as a nation of immigrants. To see more of this field trip, please click here.
RYSA concluded with graduation in August, in a celebration of RYSA students’ successes, creativity, and heritages. Each class selects a classmate to speak at graduation, and among the most moving was an upper school student from Senegal, who had entered the United States six months before with no English, and was recommended to attend RYSA to build his language skills and school preparedness. As the last student speaker, Amadou* reflected on his time at RYSA and shared that, “RYSA is more than school, it is family.” His speech, spoken with newfound confidence in spoken English, captured the aim of RYSA to empower students to make bold, positive leaps and progress in a welcoming community.
The IRC in NY hopes the DREAM team’s lessons lead students to new goals and accomplishments this fall, and wishes RYSA graduates all the best as they begin the new school year.
If you would like to support RYSA and educational programs in NY, please click here.
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.