‘Making a Connection’ Program to Pair Young Refugees with Positive Adult Mentors
The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance today announced $2.7 million to fund five mentorship programs in upstate New York that will help recent youth and young adult refugees develop the social and life skills they can use to succeed at school or advance in the workplace. The Making a Connection program will provide young refugees with an adult mentor to help them adapt to American culture, while also maintaining their own heritage.
“As New Yorkers, we have a proud tradition of welcoming refugees with open arms and they are now playing an increasingly critical role in the economic vitality of many communities across the state,” said Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Mike Hein. “By helping these teens and young adults acclimate to life in their new communities, we can open the door of opportunity for them and greatly increase their chances for future success.”
The $2.7 million in federal funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children & Families. Making a Connection promotes positive civic and social engagement among recently arriving refugees between the ages 15 and 24, regardless of their education level. Adult mentors serve as case managers for young refugees to support their educational advancement and career development.
Mentors will provide refugees with academic support services, including English language training and tutoring, in addition to career development assistance, such as job counseling and resume preparation. The program will also provide participants with health and financial literacy services to help them address social issues that sometimes negatively affect outcomes for newly arriving refugee youths and young adults.
Recipients include the following organizations with the amount of funding they will receive annually over five years:
- Journey’s End Refugee Services, Inc., Erie County; $166,196
- Catholic Charities of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, Onondaga County; $110,797
- Rochester City School District’s Office of Adult and Career Education Services, Monroe County; $110,797
- S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Inc., Albany County; $83,098
- Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, Oneida County; $83,098
Refugees who enter the United States as children typically graduate high school and enter college at similar rates as native-born youth, according to a 2017 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Refugees entering as older teenagers have a much lower level of achievement, the study found, with the difference attributable to language barriers and because many of these youths are not accompanied by a parent.
Furthermore, the study found that overall outcomes for refugees improve considerably within six years of their resettlement, and they typically have higher rates of employment than native individuals.
The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s Bureau of Refugee Services provides resources to local entities that help refugees and their families, as well as others in a similar immigration status, to achieve economic and social self-sufficiency. Refugees are defined as any person outside of their country who is unable or unwilling to return there due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion.
The number of refugees admitted each year into the United States is established by the President, Congress and the U.S. Department of State. The Department of State works with the national voluntary resettlement agencies to decide the number of refugees to be settled in a region or state.
About 89 percent of the 1,281 refugees resettled in New York between October 2017 and September 2018 were placed in upstate communities. Most of the refugees resettled in New York last year came from five countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Burma, Ukraine and Bhutan.