SCSD Refugee Assistance Program Helps Refugees Find Work, Community
Published on 5/18/16
Families from Congo, Cuba, Bhutan, Burma, Somalia and other nations who are in need of refuge are resettled by the two Resettlement Agencies in Syracuse, Catholic Charities and InterFaith Works. Arriving at the airport, the families are greeted by staff from one of these two agencies. But, not yet acclimated to a new culture and unable to speak English, what happens next?
Thanks to the SCSD’s Refugee Assistance Program (RAP), about 600 adult refugees are enrolled in classes each year, making the RAP (also known as Bob’s School) the number one provider of adult education in the city. There, refugees receive support services, learn to speak English, learn traffic rules so they can obtain driving permits, gain citizenship skills and job-specific skills, among many other things.
“Our goal as a District, of course, is to teach kids,” RAP Job Developer Jasenko Mondom said. “But who feeds the kids? Who provides for them? The adults. So we need to make sure we help educate them and place them on the road to success, too.”
Many of these refugees are skilled workers who served as doctors or nurses in their home country. With different licensing requirements in the United States, the RAP has become like a feeder program—working with employers to see where there is a need for competent workers, as well as with refugees to train them for those specific openings.
CenterState CEO’s Work Train Initiative, initially created to help train workers for positions in the healthcare and manufacturing industries, serves as a collaborative, joining resources with employers throughout the city and working with the RAP and Onondaga Community College’s JOBSplus! Program to help match the unemployed and underemployed with relevant job openings.
“Our employers are so pleased with our clients that they’re always calling us to help fill new openings,” Mr. Mondom explained. “The employers get good, reliable workers, the refugees get a good, stable job… it’s a huge benefit for the entire community.”
Adult Education Instructor Matt Centore spoke of one refugee, a former client, who was in a certified nursing program at Loretto and recently shared a photo on social media with her coworkers, each of them decked out in Syracuse University orange attire. Mr. Mondom said he has seen clients out shopping at Destiny USA or driving themselves around.
“We all have these stories of how the refugees who start at RAP become settled here,” Matt explained. “It’s just wonderful to see them acclimate and build a life here as Americans.”
Thank you to the Refugee Assistance Center and all of its partner programs for all you do to help educate the city’s adult learners!