We serve people who have sought refuge in the U.S., including refugees, asylees, immigrants, asylum-seekers, Special Immigrant Visa recipients, and other newcomers. Refugee & Immigrant Transitions students have come from ~50 countries, including Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, China, El Salvador, Eritrea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Yemen. They have brought a wealth of diverse knowledge, experience, and skills to the U.S., including such “job skills of the future” as multilingualism and multiculturalism. However, our students are new to English, and many have interrupted formal education.
We serve people of all ages and genders. All of our students are low-income.
Migration brings a host of benefits to the U.S.
Despite the major challenges they face, newcomers are resilient, courageous, and determined to build new lives in the U.S. Studies have shown that migration brings many economic benefits, from new businesses and jobs to new tax revenue. There are also immense cultural benefits stemming from diversity and exposure to new ideas. In addition, due to their first-hand experience with struggle, newcomers are well-positioned to be empathetic leaders of the future.
Our students have been forced to migrate due to war, persecution, violence, and/or economic duress.
Almost all of our students have been through traumatic experiences (including violence, loss of loved ones, separation from families) in their homelands or on their way to the U.S. Check out these Refugee Backgrounders from the Cultural Orientation Resource Center to learn more about what forces people to seek refuge.
We believe that safety is the fundamental precondition for enjoying one’s human rights. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” (Article 14 (1)). We strive to create safe and supportive environments within our programs, and foster a sense of acceptance and welcome.
The families we serve navigate significant challenges in the U.S.
While facing poverty, racism, and discrimination, they work hard to build English and literacy skills, adjust to the very unfamiliar U.S. culture and systems, and overcome social isolation. They experience multiple barriers accessing community resources and educational opportunities, including language and childcare barriers.
RIT tailors our programs in response to our students’ needs. For example, our Women’s Initiative program in Oakland reduces women’s childcare barriers to education—we offer classes for moms simultaneously with early childhood education for their tots. Programs such as our Home-based Tutoring and Social Adjustment Case Management offer individualized, one-on-one assistance to each participant. We keep our students engaged by incorporating community building into our programs, and ensure cultural and linguistic competency by hiring newcomer Community Leaders.
—Clemantine Wamariya, Human Rights Advocate & Storyteller, RIT Advisor,
Author of memoir The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After