The Refugee Educational Empowerment and Recreation program serves refugee high
school youth living in San Diego. The program is an academic manifestation of Eleanor Roosevelt College’s and UC San Diego’s engagement with and support for San Diego’s refugee community. Working collaboratively with community-based organizations (International Rescue Committee and the Center for Community Health at UCSD) the program familiarizes refugee students with UC San Diego and the university experience and creates a pathway to college readiness, while fostering greater awareness and inclusion among undergraduate students. This program is run by UCSD’s Making of the Modern World Program at Eleanor Roosevelt College and is delivered through the efforts of undergraduate volunteers and campus partners.
In 2015, UC San Diego’s Making of the Modern World (MMW), Eleanor Roosevelt College’s core general education world history and cultures program, translated its intercultural knowledge into direct service with refugee youth. MMW’s mission of improving intercultural understanding made it an ideal partner for such collaboration. In 2016 MMW began to host the youth on the UC San Diego campus. Out of these beginnings emerged the Refugee Educational Empowerment and Recreation program.
The Refugee Educational Empowerment and Recreation program provides an inclusive space for educational empowerment and recreational programming for under-represented and under-served refugee youth. This program helps refugee youth to envision college as a viable possibility and creates a pathway to college application, while fostering greater awareness and inclusion among UC San Diego undergraduate students through a variety of activity and refugee high school student-to- UCSD student interaction.
In AY16-17, MMW began to collaborate with the UCSD Recreation Department to enhance this work. Peacemakers visited the UCSD campus, which they have described as a welcoming environment, where they feel safe and even inspired. MMW hosts the program, which exposes refugee high school students to UC San Diego and university life and helps them to envision attending college as a viable possibility. The students engage in leadership- and team-building recreational activity, while learning about campus resources, interacting with students, hearing from faculty, and visiting campus facilities. The day’s program concludes with a group meal and discussion. In AY2017-2018, the program expanded to include the Youth Advisory Council at the Center for Community Health (UCSD School of Medicine), which was made possible by funding from the UCSD Office of the Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
The Refugee Educational Empowerment and Recreation program provides:
- A Pathway to the University: The goal of this portion of the program is to make the university and the college experience tangible and to help refugee youth envision this as a real possibility. This will include tours of UCSD campus and its facilities, including the Library, the colleges, Biology laboratories, Stuart Collection, etc. There will be regular interaction with faculty and staff from a wide range of campus departments and offices. There will also be frequent interaction with UCSD undergraduate students, who equally benefit from the interaction with the youth.
- Recreational Activity and Community Building: The goal of this portion of the program is intentionally recreational, to provide a venue for positive activity and to strengthen community connections. This portion of the program is offered through a strong partnership with the UCSD Recreation Department and Outback Adventures. This recreational activity provides leisure, team building, and personal empowerment opportunities for refugee youth, which opens new areas of activity, such as rock climbing, hiking, ropes course, kayaking (for some, simply seeing the Pacific Ocean itself). Participants explore and enjoy new activities, which result in learning new skills and overcoming challenges in a safe and extremely supportive environment. Each session ends with a group meal, with refugees, undergraduate volunteers, and faculty, and a reflection on the day’s activities.
- Educational Enhancement: The goal of this portion of the program is to leverage campus expertise on public speaking and presentation to enhance the effectiveness of the Peacemakers program. This involves faculty workshops on the art of public speaking, crafting stories, and presentation. These skills are of value for participants’ work as advocates, but also for job interviews, writing development, and college application (personal statements). There will also be a group art project, a gallery walk of photo stories and other creative projects, which exhibit the resiliency and uniqueness of the San Diego refugee community.