By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–For the second straight year, Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM) brought high school, middle school and even some adult students from refugee backgrounds to the IU Southeast campus last Saturday, Sept. 24 for a special college preparatory event.
The Super Saturday College and Career Readiness Program introduces future collegians to academic expectations, financial aid, residence life and other aspects of higher ed.
Based on last year’s warm Grenadier welcome, KRM decided to hold its fall kick-off on the IU Southeast campus.
The 23 visiting students hailed from Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, Iraq, Somalia and Syria. Most are Jefferson County Public Schools students who originally came to Louisville through Kentucky Refugee Ministries. Other young adults in attendance participate in the KRM Rise Up Program, which supports 16- to 24-year-olds in their educational and vocational aspirations. Rise Up provides college readiness activities, college visits, one-to-one educational case management and support for students as they apply to educational programs.
The KRM contingent was bolstered by the presence of two students from the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs, a resource center that provides a range of educational programming and social services for the children of nearly 1,000 workers at Churchill Downs racetrack.
At the center of the program were two College 101 workshops that delved into details of college procedures, processes and financing. These sessions were co-led by Lisa Hoffman, assistant professor of education and KRM Rise Up Educational Access Coordinator Jillian Pearsall.
“College 101 is very important to students who may come from educational systems outside the U.S. as there are many strict deadlines and long applications that can be daunting to both students and their parents,” Pearsall said. “Even if their parents were college educated in their home country, understanding the varying types of institutions and career paths within the U.S. higher education system can be overwhelming.”
This year’s event featured increased involvement from IU Southeast, including a luncheon with School of Education Dean Doyin Coker-Kolo, and faculty members Jean Abshire, Bradford Griggs, James Hollenbeck, Susan Ridout, Kathy Ryan, and Valerie Scott. There was also a campus tour led by Lisa Hoffman and Director of Admissions Chris Crews. IU Southeast School of Education students Kristina Foster, Elizabeth Reinbold and Lizzy Southard participated in part or all of the activities.
Adrienne Eisenmenger, family and youth services manager and program leader at KRM, was pleased with the broad and enthusiastic reception.
“To have current students and faculty take time to welcome our group is a testament to the hospitality of the university and the desire of the community to embrace diversity,” she said.
According to Eisenmenger, the refugee population in the region is growing. At the end of the current fiscal year, KRM will have resettled 2,000 refugees between the Louisville and Lexington, Ky. offices.
“This is a beautiful growth in numbers and diversity for the city and for Kentuckiana in general,” Eisenmenger said.
IU Southeast currently boasts more than 120 students from international backgrounds, among whom several are from the refugee population, according to Crews.
For him, the event demonstrated IU Southeast’s ongoing commitment to community partnership, and provided a useful learning experience for the students.
“It’s important for them to understand college culture, as well as how a college education can help them reach their goals and their potential and improve their lives overall.”
Some of those goals are already well formed. Jorge, from Cuba, aims to become a doctor. Ahmad, from Syria, is taking the first steps toward becoming a pilot.
Appropriately, the program wrapped up with a visit to the Center for Cultural Resources, itself a microcosm of world society that enables teachers in the region to foster awareness of the world and its peoples in the teaching of social studies.
After IU Southeast, the “Super Saturday” event will visit the University of Louisville, Bellarmine University, Northern Kentucky University and other institutions.
“IU Southeast and the greater Louisville area can be greatly enriched by refugee students and their families,” Pearsall said. “Not only do they bring hardworking attitudes, they contribute unique global perspectives in both the classroom and their communities.”
Homepage photo, from left: Jorge, from Cuba and Ahmad, from Syria, tour the campus with IU Southeast special education student Elizabeth Reinbold.