LANCASTER, Pa. — Lancaster educators know refugee resettlement isn’t just about offering a new home but also helping refugees navigate the years of readjustment ahead of them.
That’s why four local organizations are partnering to hold the third year of the Leap into Language summer program for middle school students from refugee and immigrant backgrounds.
IU13 Community Education’s Refugee Center and Community School at Reynolds and School District of Lancaster are the primary organizers of Leap into Language.
Khem Subedi, the community school facilitator at Reynolds, said organizing the program involves recruiting students through home visits and communicating with program partners to plan for the summer and establish curriculum.
Additional staff and program support are provided by Millersville University and Eastern Mennonite Missions. Leap into Language is funded in part through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
The monthlong program starts with English language lessons in the mornings, taught by educators from the primary organizers, as well as Millersville education students.
In the afternoons, EMM provides enrichment activities through local youth groups who participate in its Kingdom Team summer learning and service program. Youth groups practice conversational English through games, sports, crafts and more.
EMM community engagement coordinator Angie Earl believes the program is an opportunity for the students to keep up their conversational English skills outside of the regular school year. It also helps some refugee families adapt to the idea of full-day education for children.
Perhaps most important, these peer-to-peer interactions help refugee and immigrant students form meaningful local relationships.
“Having positive peer interactions helps refugee students to feel more comfortable and confident in using English and in relating with people of other cultures, which is an important step toward gaining a sense of belonging and welcome in the community,” she said.
Twenty-nine students attended in 2016. That number grew to 51 students the second year. This year the program runs July 2-27.