A Safe Place to Learn for Georgia’s Newest Citizens

With more than 2,000 refugees resettling to Georgia every year, the state is one of the top six across the country for refugee resettlement. Learning to acclimate to new surroundings can be difficult for adults, and even more tricky for kids, finding themselves placed in a new environment and a new school.

And for many, this is the first time they’ve been in an educational setting in a very long time. Many young refugees, having spent years of their lives in refugee camps, have experienced extended periods of interrupted education. For them, the transition to the public school system in the United States can prove very difficult. Being placed into a grade based on their age, and not their academic ability, often leads to struggle and strife for the student.

For those students, there’s the Global Village Project. An accredited special-purpose middle school for refugee girls who are academically behind because of their refugee-status, the school helps bridge the educational gap. Working with girls ages 11-18, the school focuses on academics and social awareness, and groups students based on their learning level, not their age.

GWS

The school’s focus on girls is based on staggering numbers of those affected by the refugee crisis. 80% of all refugees are women and girls. And, of the 21 million refugees around the world, half are under 18—that’s the entire population of the state of Georgia! As girls have disproportionately less access to education than boys and men, the Global Village Project sought to provide the greatest impact where there was the greatest need.

Providing them with a safe space to learn and grow, the school currently has 42 girls attending full-time. Embracing the student’s cultural values and backgrounds, while also providing them the information needed to feel comfortable integrating into their new surroundings, the school provides individualized attention and instruction for its students.

“At Global Village, you meet the child where they are,” said Pia Ahmad, Global Village Project Board Member. “The most important thing is to meet the child where they are right now. You work with them. We are all teachers and we are all learners. People assume refugees come with a lot of deficits. In fact, though, they have tremendous strengths.”

An 8:1 student to teacher ratio is additionally bolstered by the 150 community volunteers who support the school and provide even more encouragement and assistance to the students. Students are grouped into “forms,” put with students of similar academic levels. Each form is then broken down into 3-4 subgroups, allowing smaller groups of girls to work directly with volunteers, based on their needs.

Students apply to the school through resettlement agencies, and are selected based on their need. And these students have found success– the school is producing staggering numbers of its own. 90% of students have grown 1.8 grade levels in just nine months of coursework, a critical jump for those behind multiple years. 90% of those who complete the program have successfully gone on to high school or college coursework. In fact, during the last school year, 15 of the Global Village Project students went on to college.

Global Village Project is always looking for volunteers, mentors, and financial supporters to continue their work. Those interested can find out more at www.globalvillageproject.org. To listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, check out the podcast at www.soundcloud.com/thegoodworksshow.

Everybody Wins!

Everybody Wins

This Goodwill Spotlight shines on Everybody Wins! For over 18 years, Everybody Wins! Atlanta has been devoted to improving the reading skills and developing a love of reading in students who are reading below grade level, giving them a greater chance for success in school and expanding their life horizon. Everybody Wins! started in just one school, but now has a presence in 12 school in five school districts across Atlanta, working with 700 students. Targeted students are of a diverse background in grades one through five, and are identified and suggested to the program by their teachers.

Everybody Wins! schools are Title 1, meaning they are economically challenged. Students in the program work on reading schools, vocabulary, and comprehension. “Currently 2/3 of Georgia 4th graders are reading below grade level, which is consistent across the country,” said Tiffany Tolbert, Everybody Wins! Executive Director.

Tiffany Tolbert Quote“The challenge is: students in 1st through 3rd grade are taught to read,” Tolbert said. “Above third grade, they are reading to learn. If a student doesn’t learn how to read well by the 3rd grade, they aren’t learning well beyond, because they can’t comprehend what they are reading.”

Schools interested in the program can reach out to Everybody Wins!, which is adding a new school to their roster this month. To complete the program, Everybody Wins! works with local businesses who are interested in getting their employees involved in a volunteer program. These volunteers spend the lunch hour with the students, therefore not interrupting their regular school day.

These “power lunches,” Tolbert says, are great for companies and a huge gain for the students involved. Students are paired one-to-one with a reader, and sometimes two-to-one. This allows them to have consistency with their reader throughout the year.

Books for the program are provided through drives and donations. Each student receives three books, at the beginning, middle and end of the year. These books are matched to the student’s reading level, and adjusted as the student progresses.

Tolbert said that studies have shown that 3rd grade reading levels have a direct effect on the prison and welfare system. “Of the 2/3 students who are not reading at grade level at the 4th grade, 2/3 of them will end up in jail or on welfare,” she said.

She also explained the economic impact. “We underestimate the importance of reading for our youth,” she said. “A child who cannot read well in the 4th grade cannot become gainfully employed at the age of 18.”

The program has seen success—in 2014, 80% of the program’s students passed their CRCT testing. Students speak highly of the program, their self-esteem, as well as their attendance has been shown to improve.

Tolbert, said that she has enjoyed reading since she was a little girl. She mentioned how thankful she was to be able to align her personal vision and mission with her career. Her favorite book as a child was Amelia Bedelia. As an adult, she loved How to Win Friends and Influence People.

To learn more about Everybody Wins! or to get involved, go to www.everybodywinsatlanta.org.