District receives grant to aid refugeesWORTHINGTON — District 518 will focus on helping its refugee student population with the help of a $45,000 federal grant administered by the Minnesota Dept. of Human Services.
WORTHINGTON — District 518 will focus on helping its refugee student population with the help of a $45,000 federal grant administered by the Minnesota Dept. of Human Services.
“The Refugee School Impact Grant was designed to help refugee students who have entered the U.S. after Oct. 1, 2007,” said Jerry Fiola, Director of Community Education for District 518. “The intent is to help them make the adjustment to their new homes here in the U.S.”
In order to be served by the grant, students must have official refugee status, including a document verifying they came to the country under duress or threats to life. They must also be between 5 and 18 years old.
Most of the District 518 students who have verified refugee status belong to the Karen ethnic group and are from Burma. Of the 100 Karen students enrolled in District 518 schools, 58 students joined the program funded by the Refugee School Impact Grant as of March.
District 518 is one of the smallest schools to have a Refugee Impact Grant, Fiola said. It received the grant in February and it will run through August, but the school can reapply for another year of funding in September, which would last until the following August.
The grant funds teacher wages for after-school and summer school programming, transportation, special presenters, educational supplies and interpreters. It focuses on three positive outcomes for refugee students.
* Improving their academic achievements.
The existing District 518 after-school program, funded by targeted services money and grants, will be leveraged in order to meet this goal. Students will receive extra instruction and work in small groups to learn core subjects.
They will also be given opportunities for educational enrichment in literature, the arts and recreation.
* Improving their leadership skills through community engagement, employment or volunteer service work.
The Nobles County Integration Collaborative has provided some service learning and leadership skill development for students, and, along with the Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council, will provide training options, and make staff available for teaching resume writing and job interviewing skills.
Younger students will have enrichment and leadership activities incorporated into their summer school work, Fiola added.
* Improving their emotional and social well-being and strengthening family relationships.
“A lot of those refugee communities don’t typically have a lot of mental health services or the concept of mental health,” Fiola said, referring to the stigma associated with mental illnesses in some cultures. “It’s not a really easy subject to address.”
Efforts toward achieving this goal will center on education and developing a community support group.
The grant’s requirements include documenting its success. Eighty percent of the students should achieve at least two of the three outcomes, as measured by test scores, grade point averages, credit accrual, volunteer or employment hours, extracurricular participation and participation or enrollment in mental health services.