Monthly Archives: February 2013

Traci: RoRo BBQ & Grill

I interviewed the manager of RoRo BBQ & Grill who currently have two International Rescue Committee (IRC) refugee clients working at their restaurant. It was amazing to hear how well the two employees are doing and how prepared they were to begin work.  It was encouraging to hear how beloved the workers and IRC are by the employer. RoRo’s heard about the IRC through one of our devoted pre-employment class volunteers.

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Lauren: Volunteer Night

I started a new tradition to increase volunteer retention. In order to build the community and help volunteers feel like they are coming to a friendly place where they are known and are building friendships, I began a monthly volunteer night. November kicked off the first one. We went bowling and 8 people came. It was a great night and hopefully the word will spread so that even more people come in the future.

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Siobhan: HSPE Prep

Siobhan and Burmese youth in Kent

I am proud of all of the hard work I have put into my service year so far. However, I am perhaps the most pleased with the new component I created for the Kent Refugee Transition Center’s extended learning program. Based on the ideas and comments of high school-aged refugee youth from Burma I was inspired to help students who had not passed the HSPE.

The HSPE or High School Proficiency Exam is a high school graduation requirement for Washington State. It is a challenging exam for Native Language Speakers but can pose a significant hurdle to receiving a high school diploma for English Language Learners (ELL). This is particularly true for newly arrived refugee youth from Burma, who often experience interrupted formal education and may not have the advanced literacy skills needed to pass this exam.

I conducted considerable research on ways to prepare, searched for sources of practice materials, and the rights students have as ELL to ask for assistance and other accommodations. I met with the Seattle Public School’s State Assessment Coordinator, Nancy Steers, to discuss best preparation practices. I contacted the Office of Superintendent (OSPI) to receive the released practice materials. I recruited a volunteer and provided training that explained the different components of the exam, how students were graded, and how we could build on the practice materials and create a curriculum. I conducted outreach efforts to students, mainly high school juniors and seniors, who had not passed the HSPE and discussed their schedules with them. The volunteers and I have held over 10 sessions, and we will continue with these meetings until the Reading and Writing portions of the exam on March 12-14.

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Cordelia: New Opportunities for Refugee Women

This month, I met with Clair Chean, the director of the Refugee Transition Center (RTC), who is interested in starting an English conversational class at the RTC in the evenings. This class would primarily be for the parents of Kent School District students and would provide an opportunity for those parents enrolled in formal ESL classes to gain additional practice, but more importantly, could allow mothers of young children initial access to English language skills.

To remain eligible for TANF benefits, parents are required to spend 35 hours a week conducting a job search and taking ESL classes. However, if the family has very young children, one parent can be excused from this requirement for childcare reasons; this responsibility often falls on the mothers. And while they may choose to take ESL classes of their own accord, they are not granted a bus pass or provided daycare for that time. For most of JFS’s refugee families, spending an additional $20 a week on the bus to take classes is simply a luxury that they cannot afford, leaving the mothers with few social and educational outlets. While it is discouraging to note these institutionalized barriers, I am very excited about the possibility of the RTC class, which would provide on-site childcare and be within walking distance of many of our clients, granting these women the opportunity to begin to gain the skills they need to successfully integrate into their new community.

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