New American Africans’ youth program is thriving. This summer, we have watched how careful intervention and support can give young people the boost needed to become their best possible self. The growth we’ve seen in two youngsters helps to illustrate the possibilities that open when generous donors ensure that we can continue to employ a youth coordinator.
Both Justine and Jacques are relative newcomers to Concord, NH, arriving here as refugees from Congo. Justine is going into 7th grade. She is a frequent participant in our African dance program. There, she spends time with friends, moving easily from Kinyarwanda to English, as she builds a strong relationship with Ayi, our youth coordinator.
In March, the University of New Hampshire’s summer youth science program contacted us, looking for promising students who might benefit from two weeks of residential camp, building STEM skills while having all fun associated with a summer camp. Because Ayi knows both Justine and her family, he was able to gain the support of her parents, getting them on board with the idea of a young girl going off from her family. Justine, a very strong and capable student, was thrilled with the idea. In July, she spent two weeks speaking only English as she built and tested miniature rockets, worked on real life chemistry problems and had an all-around wonderful experience.
Jacques is about to enter middle school. His 5th grade English Language Learner teacher is concerned about his literacy level. She knew that the NAA was planning a summer literacy program and contacted us to make sure that we included him and several others who were moving on to middle school with low literacy. Jacques is a very sweet kid who lives with his mom and several siblings. He does not come from a culture of literacy, and thus he would not be apt to read often during the summer without outside support.
Jacques came weekly to our program. Each week, he had a chance to read a ‘just right’ book, one that would challenge, but not frustrate him. He read out loud to a youth volunteer. When he stumbled on words, our young volunteers would help him, asking questions to ensure that he understood the new vocabulary. After that, he could spend time playing board games with both new American and host community youth. Because we had host community members working with us, all conversation had to be in English. He went with us to the ocean for the first time ever. Next week, he will take part in our end of the program activity – a day at a high ropes course. He and all of the other participants and volunteers are super excited as they look forward to a day of pure fun.
When Justine and Jacques return to school in a few weeks, they will be able to work with Ayi and his team of high school student volunteers. Justine was a regular participant last year. Because Jacques built a strong relationship with Ayi this summer, he too is apt to join our after-school program, getting the support he needs to prosper. We can’t thank you enough for the generosity that makes all of this possible.
Jacques, reading with a host community volunteer
A day at Plum Island