Category Archives: School’s Out Washington

Doree: Freedom, Justice, Power Summit

This month, I was able to broaden my racial equity work at School’s Out Washington by presenting at Franklin High School’s “Freedom, Justice, Power Summit.” Fellow VISTA Bruce McGregor and I facilitated two workshops concerning the school-to-prison pipeline and the ways social justice ties into problems in school discipline. We put on brave faces to be in front of 30 teenagers with great results. It was great having such an open platform for students to have a dialogue and discuss solutions to such a pressing problem.


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Doree: “Education Without Borders”

A couple of weeks ago I was able to convene with educators from throughout the U.S., China, Australia and Singapore during the webinar “Education Without Borders.” Over the past couple of years, classrooms have been utilizing visual conferencing tools to connect with their peers thousands of miles away. In the 21st century and the new “web-connected” generation, we have the rare opportunity to facilitate collaboration and communication between students of various national backgrounds like never before. Through this discussion, I was inspired to learn more about the piloted “Global Classroom” programs here in Seattle and hope to collaborate with local schools to kick start such a great learning opportunity for our students!

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Meet Doree!

Doree is the Refugee Support Network’s newest VISTA member. She will be starting her year of service with School’s Out Washington in December.

Doree Desberg

Refugee School Impact Grant VISTA Member

School’s Out Washington

As the new Refugee School Impact Grant VISTA at School’s Out Washington, Doree will work to develop resources which support school district and community partnerships such as conducting needs assessments and aiding in the implementation of workshops for newcomer students and families. After graduating from the University of Arizona in 2009 with a degree in International Development and Global Education, Doree has worked alongside various education and community development programs throughout Peru and Southeast Asia. She is extremely excited to begin her year working with the devoted staff of School’s Out Washington.

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Nicola: Refugee School Impact Grant Grantee Orientation

A highlight of this past quarter was presenting at the Refugee School Impact Grant (RSIG) Grantee Orientation, where the RSIG grantees convened to kick-off another two-year grant cycle from the federal government. We had convened in June to end the previous year, and that had been my first chance to meet most of the grantees as well as my first chance to introduce them to my resource toolkits for newcomer families and students to the school system.

While I entered the June meetings and its presentation with uncertainty, coming before our partners at the September Orientation was a great moment as I could put finalized products in their hands and share how these resource toolkits, created to have a wide scope and flexibility, could really apply to all their work despite the diversity of their organizations. This time, while also supplying constructive feedback on how best to disseminate the information and on what additional tools could be created in the future, the grantees also gave a lot of feedback and appreciation for the finished work.                             

In their appreciation, all the time, energy and process of sifting and creating over the course of the year was worth it. These products are something the grantees identified as useful. The toolkits will be able to support our partners’ efforts around orientation to the schools as they actively work to support the refugee families and students and the schools that receive them. Gathered there with twenty-three partners representing the ten school districts and almost all of the partner organizations, it was a moment to bring all the pieces of the year together for me and it was an honor to put the toolkits in the hands of the people I had been working to support.

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Nicola: Newcomer Refugee Toolkit Resources Online!

Following my presentation at the SOAR Pieces Conference, I entered a phase of intensive editing with the support of my supervisor, and finally on August 31 A Resource Toolkit to Help Newcomer Parents Navigate the U.S. School System was complete and went online, solidifying its sustainability. There it can be easily accessed or referenced.  We highlighted the toolkit at the Refugee School Impact Grant orientation at the end of September along with the youth toolkit, entitled An Orientation Resource to Support Youth with School and Cultural Adjustment, which I have also completed and uploaded.

These resources can be found on the School’s Out Washington website at

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Nicola: Closing in on a Final Draft

This past month I have been in editing mode, honing the school orientation toolkits for parents and youth. It is exciting after months of research and process to be nearing a final draft which can be given out to our partners, made available on our website, and potentially used. These toolkits will provide a list of resources and guides that will help orientate and engage youth and families towards the US school system. Each guide presents a series of topics and corresponding materials as well as a list of potential activities and tips towards implementation. It is exciting to be at a point where I can see how these toolkits can serve our Refugee School Impact Grant partners and the newcomer families.  

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Nicola: SOAR Pieces Conference

On June 22nd, I had the chance to present on my orientation resources for newcomer parents to the US school system at the SOAR Pieces professional development and networking conference. It was a great opportunity to collaborate, inviting community partners from the Kent School District and Jewish Family Service Refugee & Immigrant Service Center to present with me on the topic of supporting parents, as well as to gather feedback, inviting the participants to give the resources a critical look and to share what they liked and what they thought would add to the resource. At first we simply discussed how to support parents and what participants were currently doing or saw happening in their communities, before looking at how the resources could support a more streamlined approach. Overall it was a great experience to share what I have been working on and to begin to think about how it will go from being simply a resource to a tool to support community and family engagement.

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Nicola: Starting Again

In May, School’s Out Washington hosted two screenings of the film Starting Again, which follows four refugee youth as they go through the initial experiences of resettlement. The film, created several years ago, powerfully captures the challenges these youth and their families face as well as their resilience. The screenings provided a powerful starting point for discussion around how better to support these youth and others like them. Sixty people, including community members, educators, service providers, and youth and families, attended the first screening at Seattle’s Rainier Beach Library. After the film, several youth from Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) stood up to tell their stories, and listening to them, it was clear that these youth are America’s leaders of tomorrow. Their strength, resilience and desire to give back to and support their communities was profound. The audience asked the students questions, and the following discussion was a great demonstration of solidarity and support for refugee youth and their families in the community.

The Kent School District Refugee Transition Center held the second screening, and, again, around sixty participants, many educators from the local community, attended. Following the film, another panel of youth, including one of the young men from the film, answered questions raised in the film about challenges and what might have helped during that initial challenging, isolating phase of transition.  Again, these young people were leaders, and the warmth and responsiveness of the educators was encouraging. The youth asked everyone to reach beyond themselves and find a way to invite refugees in, encouraging everyone to participate in cultural sharing that went beyond food and other surface areas, risking vulnerability and the possibility of making mistakes. 

View the film on School’s Out Washington’s website:

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Nicola Crawford

Refugee School Impact Grant VISTA Member

School’s Out Washington

As a VISTA Member at School’s Out Washington, Nicola is working on compiling resources to support Refugee School Impact Grant grantees. She specifically focuses on resource development materials and compiling orientation materials for newcomer families and youth to the school system.

A Puget Sound native with a B.A. in Peace Studies from Whitworth University, Nicola feels VISTA is a great opportunity to continue working in the community. “Following a year working as an AmeriCorps member at an afterschool program in SeaTac and a year teaching English in Kenya, it’s great to be working as a part of the Refugee Support Network. School’s Out Washington has been a great learning opportunity, and it’s good to be working back in my home community.”

When not working, Nicola likes being outdoors, especially when that involves mountains, water or trees . . . which is why she loves the Pacific Northwest.

School’s Out Washington

School’s Out Washington (SOWA) was founded in 1987, and the organization’s history reflects the emergence and development of the afterschool and youth development (AYD) professional field. SOWA’s mission, vision, and values reflect a deep commitment to the advancement of the AYD field, the individuals who work in the field, and the children, youth, families, and communities served by the field.  SOWA administers Washington State’s Refugee School Impact Grant, which supports school systems statewide impacted by significant numbers of refugee children and youth, ages 5-18, in the country three years or less.

Check out their blog at

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