Daemen College Receives Renewal Funding from Erie County for Refugee Teen Empowerment Program

Daemen’s Refugee Teen Program is Successful and Influential in Changing lives of Refugee Youth.  

January 9, 2013



Contact: Mike Andrei

                Director-College Relations

                (716) 839-8472



The Daemen College Refugee Teen Empowerment Program has again been selected for competitive funding by Erie County. The total anticipated award for 2013 is $7500, with $3750 approved from January - June. The awards are issued on a six-month cycle.


Since 2003, Daemen College students and faculty have provided direct services to refugees living on the West Side of Buffalo through the Daemen College-West Side Partnership.  The grant will make high school diplomas, and a college education, possible for refugee students who come to Buffalo after escaping strife, and often, war in their native countries.  


The focus of Daemen’s refugee teen program is Regents Exam preparation and high school graduation; this is accomplished through tutoring sessions coordinated by the Daemen Center for Sustainable Communities & Civic Engagement, and Office of Service Learning.  Students in the Daemen Service Learning Program serve as mentors as well as tutors to refugee students enrolled at Buffalo’s Lafayette High School, offering exposure to college life and the possibility of college after high school.  The program has been successful and influential in changing the lives of refugee youth.


“This grant will have a lasting impact on the refugee youth who dream of attending college, but find it so difficult to pass the Regents examinations,” noted Cheryl Bird, executive director of the Daemen Center for Sustainable Communities & Civic Engagement.


“Most of the students we work with have spent their lives in refugee camps, with little formal education available to them, but still have the same accountability as native born US students for testing after one year in the country. This award will play a significant role in helping these refugees graduate from high school and achieve their dream of college.”


High school graduation rates for students in Daemen’s refugee teen program show that it works. In June 2012, 22 out of 24 students in the program who were seniors, or 92%, graduated from high school. 


Certified Buffalo Public School teachers develop and oversee the program. With support from Bird, the Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement, and Daemen Sergice Learning Coordinator Susan Marchione, Daemen undergraduate service learning students serve as tutors and mentors for refugee youth. 


Each semester, 10 to15 Daemen students serve as tutors/mentors for this unique service effort. Also, each semester, Daemen hosts the refugee students on campus in an event called "Daemen Day." The purpose is to introduce the refugee youth to life on a college campus.


In fall 2012, 10 Daemen students collectively contributed over 400 hours of service as tutors and mentors, offering valuable exposure to college life and the possibility of college after high school. 


Daemen students participating as service-learning mentors in Fall 2012 included:  Christopher Butler '14, Catherine Collazos '14, Coby DeGaetano '15, Megan Hanley '14, Dene Konkle '14, Lindsey Nowak '15, Hilary Rutkowski '15, Shanik Session '15, Shelby Wage '15, and Melissa Woodin '14. 


Daemen students reflecting on their experiences with the refugee teens pointed to making new friendships, and gaining new knowledge and experiences. 


“The students made me a thank you card telling me how much I helped them with their work and that they would miss the fun we had. That was one of the most special days of my life because in that moment, I reflected back on my experience and realized that I had really made an impact and we had accomplished goals together.” 


"I left with new friendships, new knowledge, and the satisfaction of knowing that I had done my part in helping them out.” 


“I had several students that I worked with regularly. . . .we created a bond that was complete with understanding each other and working towards common goals together.”


In addition to this grant from Erie County, the Daemen Refugee Teen Empowerment program is made possible through funding from the AAUW Buffalo Branch, The Josephine Goodyear Foundation Fund, and Buffalo Public Schools.


For more information or to get involved, contact Cheryl Bird, Executive Director, Center for Sustainable Communities & Civic Engagement at cbird@daemen.edu, or Susan Marchione, Coordinator of Service-Learning, at smarchione@daemen.edu.



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