Follow Rachel Dyussengaliyev (that’s Do-Sin-Ga-Lee-Ev) around for a day and you’ll be hard-pressed to keep up. Whether in the office with her interns, at one of the seven high schools her students attend, or driving a van to take all of her program's participants on their next adventure, she’s always on the move. 

After six years of youth development work in Kazakhstan, interning in IRC’s Gender Equality unit, teaching English in Japan, and working with refugees in Greece, Rachel returned to the US this past June to lead the IRC’s growing youth program.  “I wanted to use my knowledge and experience working with youth internationally to help refugee youth resettle in the US,” says Rachel. Though only six months in, she’s already implemented a flurry of important new initiatives for the program.

At the start of the new school year Rachel refined the program’s intakes to better screen for trauma, introduced the IRC / UT Southwestern’s Promoting Positive Identity curriculum, and with appropriate safety measures in place, she also restored a youth program favorite - the Saturday Learning Series. After a long pause due to COVID-19, Rachel, her team, and the students were excited to get back to the group outings that were such a key part of the program before the pandemic. So far, Rachel has taken students to study rare fossils at the Perot Museum, learn about conservation efforts at the Dallas Zoo, try their luck on four wheels at the local roller rink, and experience the great outdoors through biking, canoeing, and camping.

In addition to these group outings, Rachel has also instituted the program’s very first Girls Group. “I want this program to focus on supporting girls and providing them after-school opportunities specific to their needs,” says Rachel. “Women and girls experience discrimination and lack of access to equal opportunities, which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19.” Leveraging her expertise in gender equality, Rachel has successfully created safe and supportive environments where the program's newest high school girls can learn, explore, and get to know one another. Most recently, Rachel and her team provided a “Women in STEM” panel for 15 girls. 

Though Rachel has accomplished a great deal already, she has even bigger plans for the future. “I hope this program is always evolving and expanding to support youth through gender-equitable practices that encourage social-emotional asset development (SEAD)  and academic achievement,” says Rachel. “I look forward to fostering new partnerships with community members and organizations that will further benefit these amazing youth.” 

Want to get involved in the IRC’s youth programs? Contact [email protected].