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RYSA at home in NY

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As New York endeavored to control the spread of COVID-19 this past spring, IRC quickly adapted all programming to virtual service delivery for seamless transitions into safe support for those we serve across case management, economic empowerment, immigration, and education and learning. The education and learning team had a new challenge to address – how to adapt its flagship Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), entering its 21st summer, to an engaging, meaningful, and resilient online program. 

By blending hands on activities with online instruction, RYSA continued its strong legacy of dynamic and engaging school preparation for newly arrived students.

Photo: IRC.

RYSA’s leaders quickly began developing online learning strategies and collecting resources for the six-week program at the end of summer. To ensure learning remained as dynamic as in years past, each student was equipped with a learning kit full of supplies that matched to their lessons throughout RYSA 2020. 

RYSA 2020 welcomed 146 newly arrived students from all over the world, from 32 countries and speaking 19 languages. Students ranged in age from 5 to 21 and were organized into six classes. Each class included English Language Arts and Math curriculum, with tailored lessons to prepare students for their new grades here in New York. IRC’s longstanding partner, Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) led arts curriculum including storytelling, music, movement, hands on creative work and film. 

Students were also supported in developing school readiness assets, including: Positive Attitude towards School; Motivation to Achieve; Self-Confidence in an Academic Setting; Understanding and Internalization of American School Culture; Coping Skills; and Positive Support Network. 2020 ushered in Coping with COVID-19 as a new school readiness asset, as RYSA leaders and teachers understand firsthand how stressful this new world has been for our communities. 

Dance class may have looked a little different this year, but that did not keep smiles from our faces!

Photo: IRC.

After six weeks of rigorous classes, virtual field trips, and even a talent show and global concert, RYSA concluded with a beautiful graduation ceremony, complete with heartfelt speeches from student speakers. Wendy, a rising ninth grader, shared the following: "I’m incredibly grateful for my time in the program. During my six weeks here at RYSA, I experienced internet connection problems and challenging assignments, but I overcame all the issues because of everyone in RYSA...[everyone] was supportive, and they were patient with us, and I appreciate and treasure their support. I am now ready to start High School and use everything that I have learned here at RYSA!" 

To support this flagship program and the critical work education and learning provides for newly arrived students all year round, please click here