Children under the age of 18 are to be enrolled in school within the first 30 days of their arrival. Refugee students are enrolled in schools where they can receive additional assistance in learning English. Refugee parents and students benefit greatly from volunteer assistance in understanding the American school system, homework help, and familiarizing themselves with the school.
WRD’s role: WRD enrolls refugee students in schools unless volunteers want to take ownership of this project. WRD also answers families' questions and coaches them through the education process.
Volunteers’ role: Volunteers can assist refugee students with their school experience in the following ways:
Explain school documents: Students oftentimes bring home documents, such as report cards, field trip forms, progress reports, etc. Volunteers can explain these various documents to students’ parents, as well as encourage parents to stay updated on school calendar schedules and extra-curricular opportunities for students.
Bring a family on a school visit: During the visit volunteers can show the refugees how to get to school, as well as essential places in the school, such as the cafeteria and gym. They may also be able to meet faculty and staff.
Offer a family general education information: Volunteers can sit down with refugee students and their families and explain to them everything they know about the school system: the school bus, PTA, sports teams, homework, the grading system, standardized testing, discipline regulations, lunches, etc. Keep in mind that refugee students and families may be overwhelmed as they begin to familiarize themselves with schools in the U.S. Volunteers may have to be patient and teach additional things as they come up.
Take a refugee student family school supplies shopping: Volunteers can ride the bus with families to assist them in shopping for school supplies. Refugees are encouraged to buy their own school supplies and volunteers are encouraged to teach refugees where to shop and how to shop on a budget. Each elementary and some middle schools have required supplies lists, so be sure to check with the school. Also, All Saints Church in Durham holds a back-to-school drive for families in Oak Creek Village which provides families with backpacks and school supplies.
Homework help: Volunteers can assist refugee students with their homework after school. Volunteers can teach refugee students how to do their homework.
Helpful Resource: The Cultural Orientation Resource Center has a number of wonderful resources for people working with refugees. Here is their Education toolkit, which contains lesson plans and activity materials (school system basics, school involvement, school issue scenarios, vocabulary, etc.).