Refugee after-school program moves to Duquesne’s campus

2/14/2019

Kellen Stepler | Staff Writer

For most students and faculty, time spent after class is meant for working on homework, relaxing, napping and hanging out with friends.

For Duquesne University Professor Jennie Schulze, it’s helping to run the After School Club.

The After School Club, which meets twice a week, is a program run through the Alliance for Refugee Youth and Education (ARYSE), an organization led by executive director Jenna Barron and Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS), the major refugee resettlement organization in Pittsburgh.

Schulze began partnering with ARYSE and JFCS through her Politics of Immigration class last spring. The class provided support to the organizations by volunteering and fundraising for after-school programming targeted at refugee youth, from kindergarten to 12th grade, in the Crafton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

According to Schulze, the class raised almost $3,000 that not only provided support for the program, but also funded a “Family Fun Day of the Arts” for refugee families and volunteers in Pittsburgh, along with JFCS. Additionally, the class volunteered its time on Sunday mornings, organizing and delivering donations to refugee families.

However, the After School Club lost its space. The decision was then made to keep the kindergarten to eighth-grade students at Crafton Heights while the high school students would be relocated to Duquesne’s campus for the Spring 2019 semester.

Again, Schulze’s Politics of Immigration students are volunteering as mentors, along with other Duquesne students interested in the program.

Currently, ARYSE has around 20 high school students in the program and they come from a variety of countries, including Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The program helps the students, not only with their homework assignments, but also focuses on raising educational and labor market awareness. In fact, Duquesne grad Arthur (AJ) Arnett, who had Schulze as a professor, develops the programming as part of ARYSE, and is structured to take advantage of opportunities happening on Duquesne’s campus.

“[It is] providing a welcoming environment for practicing English and cultivating relationships with mentors who are near peers,” Schulze said.

Programs like this are essential for the success of refugee students.

“These types of out-of-school time program are crucial to helping refugee students overcome barriers to educational attainment they face compared to their native born peers,” Schulze said.

Since its inception, the program has grown tremendously said Schulze.

“This is evident in the support of the community and in the growth of the number of volunteers in both the K-8 program in Crafton Heights, and in the high school program at Duquesne,” Schulze said. “Pittsburgh definitely seems to be recognizing the value of these students and how rewarding it is to engage with them.”

For Duquesne students however, the idea of being there for refugee students is not a new one. The program speaks to Duquesne’s mission, as the university was founded to educate children of immigrants.

It also gives way to community engagement. Schulze says that she can only teach so much in class about the topic of immigration, but the direct interaction between the students and mentors, along with ARYSE and JFCS, can give them a better understanding of immigration and what these people go through.

Schulze also notes that the most satisfying thing from the program is seeing the smiles, hearing the laughter of students and forming relationships with them. She adds that leaving the program always puts her in a good mood. She calls it “incredible” and “transformative”.

Undergraduate and graduate students interested in becoming involved with the program do not have to be a member of the Politics of Immigration class and can email Dr. Jennie Schulze at schulzej@duq.edu, or JFCS at avantreeck@jcfspgh.org or call at 412-904-5970.

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