SW Ohio schools seeking mentors to new refugees
Written by Associated Press   
Thursday, 02 January 2014 07:17

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Schools in a southwest Ohio city are appealing for volunteers so students who left troubled homelands can get some extra help.

The Dayton Daily News reports that Dayton Public Schools have about 25 volunteer mentors but would like more, with 105 student refugees eligible for help through a federally subsidized program. Those who want to become mentors are provided training in teaching English as a Second Language and literacy and also get a "Refugee 101" class through Catholic Social Services.

Twenty of the 105 refugees came from Iraq, and most others are from African nations. They often have fled war and persecution, and students often have been out of school for long periods because of turmoil.

Regan Twite, a Belmont High School junior, said until three years ago, his family was often on the move. From the Democratic Republic of Congo, they stayed in a refugee camp and were in a Zambia resettlement program over the past decade before landing in Dayton.

"Many kids come like in Regan's situation, where they missed school for a number of years," said Teresa Troyer, the district's ESL coordinator. "So the faster they can get access to the content, the faster they can catch up academically."

Volunteer mentor Melisssa Bertolo works with Twite, helping him with English at his family's apartment.

"I have homework that I don't understand that they give in a school," said Twite, whose first language is Swahili. "She can explain it to me. She makes me understand the words."

"The amount of impact someone can have on someone's life is really important," said Bertolo, who said seeing the amount of progress the students can make is encouraging. She is also the city's coordinator for its Welcome Dayton initiative to help the city be immigrant-friendly.

Federal funds through the Refugee School Impact Grant program have helped with startup costs and hiring an administrator.


Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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