JFS Perspectives

Friday, March 02, 2018

International KidSuccess: Helping Refugee Kids Succeed in School—and Life

International KidSuccess: Helping Refugee Kids Succeed in School—and Life

Imagine you’re 14 years old and you’ve spent the last seven years of your life in a refugee camp in Syria after escaping from your home country of Iraq. You hear gunfire and bombs daily. You have no access to books, school, work, or any kind of entertainment. You lost your father in the Iraqi war and your younger brother was shot and killed in crossfire. You’ve witnessed the deaths of two good friends and your cousin. You and your mother live in fear every day and have been waiting for the last five years to be approved for refugee status and the opportunity of a better life in the United States.

Now imagine that you were approved! You and your mother board a plane and end up in Denver, Colorado. You’ve never heard of Denver or Colorado and you don’t know a soul. You don’t speak any English, and neither does your mother. Within weeks of arriving, you are enrolled as a student at South High School. Now what?

This scenario is typical for hundreds of refugee students who come to Colorado each year. Most have experienced significant trauma, are unfamiliar with American culture, and don’t speak English. Yet, they are expected to succeed in the school environment.

South High School specializes in assimilating refugee students. The focus is on teaching these students English, but learning anything is a challenge when you’re overcome with fear, anxiety, and depression. That’s where the JFS International KidSuccess program is making all the difference.

International KidSuccess  offers culturally sensitive school-based counseling services that help refugee children and adolescents adjust to their new school, culture, and home in the United States. An overarching goal of the program is to support refugee youth through the major life transition of resettlement so they are better able to focus on and succeed in school. The program serves refugee students at highly impacted Denver public schools, utilizing psycho-educational and therapeutic activities and interventions. All services are provided to students at no cost.

Using interpreters, International KidSuccess therapists provide one-on-one trauma-informed therapy to students throughout the school year. In addition, therapists conduct cultural adjustment groups and mentoring groups to help students better adjust to life in their new home.

In the last year, the International KidSuccess program served 259 refugee students and 243 teachers and parents in four public schools. The program is helping refugee students improve relationships with teachers, peers, and family members. They are also performing well in school. The vast majority of refugee students who participated in the International KidSuccess program significantly advanced their English language acquisition levels, which is a key metric of future success in school.

To support this program, please make a donation now.