Refugees chiefly come from underdeveloped countries. For many, there is little experience in their lives that builds the skills to enter into the American workplace. Certainly not the skills for them to advance past entry level jobs. Not all, but many are trapped in a cycle of poverty. We organized a group to examine these challenges and propose suggestions of how to break the cycle of poverty. Their conclusion was that the best point to break the cycle, was when refugees are aging out of public school systems and striking out on their own.
Consequently we established a Refugee Training and Education Fund to assist refugees in continuing their education and training after high school graduation. The fund was started with $25,000 from community donations. Our approach is simply to match the aptitudes and interests of individuals with training that provides the skills in demand by the local workplace. Some sources for programs are trade schools, technical schools, licensing classes and community college programs that award either certificates or academic credit.
Overall financial assistance to pay for community college courses is readily available to refugees as long as they are not working. Therefore we are focusing on funding ancillary needs to better the chances of refugees completing their classes and courses. Often, the cost of something as small as a necessary laptop or the cost of textbook can seem like an insurmountable hurdle for a young adult with limited income. Our scholarships fund laptops, printers, transportation needs, text books, partial scholarships, vocational courses and school fees.
The Rochester City School District and Monroe Community College, as well as the Saint's Place tutoring program nominate refugees to be considered for this program. The district and community college will monitor the progress of participants and offer specialized support if necessary.
The expected outcome of this program is that participants complete their schooling/programs and are hired into positions that offer advancement above entry level.
During the last year and a half, we have helped over 35 students with $53,000.00 in scholarships. We have awarded 16 laptop computers, 4 vocational course scholarships and paid for books, fees and partial tuitions for students attending Monroe Community College, St. John Fisher, OACES and Isabella Hart School of Nursing.
All students who receive a scholarship of any kind from Saint's Place are monitored for their progress. We work with school counselors and program directors to track how our students are doing academically as well as following their job search after completion of their training. We want every student to flourish, and to know that we are praying for their success.