Supporting Refugee Education in Your Community

Marco Sanchez - Youth Engagement Intern - United Nations Association

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One of the most vulnerable people in the world are refugee and asylum seekers. In the United States, about 3 million refugees and asylum seekers have been resettled on American territory since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which created the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program and the current national standard for the screening and admission of refugees into the country. Many of these vulnerable individuals lack the support and resources they need to start their new life in America.

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Here at UNA-USA, we strive to be strong advocates for refugees in our community. Our members realize the pressing challenges that refugees and asylum seekers face in America and across the world. One of the greatest struggles facing displaced people is the lack of quality education. Together with our friends at Books Not Bombs, we have created a toolkit for UNA-USA members to use in their communities to help advance refugee educational opportunities.

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Understanding the procedures of higher education can be tough, especially so when you are a newcomer in a city. Some questions that refugee and asylum seeker students always ask include: Is it a good idea to go to community college first? What about technical and vocational programs? Are there scholarships offered through the city, county, or state open to non-citizens? Unfortunately, many of these questions go unanswered, therefore we realize that there is a huge need for college advising tailored to displaced students. So to help fill the knowledge gap, we are calling on UNA-USA members like yourself to hold college information sessions tailored for displaced students their local community. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Do your research
    The first step to organizing is research. Who are the people resettled in your community? Who are the key people and organizations working with the refugee and asylum-seeking community? Are there any stories written about resettled students in your area? These are all important questions to consider. 
  2. Reach out to groups and agencies that work with displaced students.
    Send an email to the volunteer coordinator and tell them you want to organize a college info session for refugee and asylum-seeking students. Here is a draft email to help you get started.
  3. Find a college advisor willing to volunteer their time
    If you are a college advisor willing to volunteer your time, please sign up on this sheet here. Otherwise, check the sheet to see if a volunteer advisor has signed up in your area. If not, do some research and see if there are any college advisors in your city and send them an email explaining what you are doing and why you would like them to volunteer their time. Here is a sample email to get you started.
  4. Reserve a room in a place that is easily accessible
    A good place to reserve a room for free might be a public library. Things to think about: will someone need a car to get here? Can they take public transportation?
  5. Create a marketing and advertising plan specifically targeted to refugee, asylum-seeking, and displaced students.
    First, log your event in the event tracker so we can help advertise it on our social media pages. You will want to give yourself preferably between two weeks to one month to promote your event. Make sure to create a flyer to leave at high schools, religious institutions, and local refugee agencies. Lastly, do not forget to create a Facebook event to help you spread the word online with a digital flyer!

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As you can see, there are various ways in which you can help provide educational opportunities for refugees in your own community. Your grassroots support and activism for displaced people is needed now more than ever. Together, we must stand in solidarity #WithRefugees

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