Daemen Refugee Teen Empowerment Program Again Selected for Funding by Erie County

Refugee Teen Empowerment Program is Open to all Students Regardless of Nationality


December 19, 2011


Media:   Mike Andrei

            Director-College Relations




            Cheryl Bird

            Executive Director

            Daemen Center for Sustainable Communities &

            Civic Engagement




Daemen College has received notification from Erie County that the College's Refugee Teen Empowerment Program has again been selected for funding.  The total anticipated award for 2012 is $7500, with $3750 approved from January - June. The awards are issued on a six month cycle.


Since 2005, Daemen College, in partnership with Buffalo Public School teachers and community-based organizations, has been making a difference in the lives of refugee teens by helping them achieve their dream of succeeding in school by providing valuable after-school tutoring and mentoring through The Refugee Teen Empowerment Program.


“Daemen College got me motivated and inspired me to keep going in my education.. . .I love going to school, but I thought that after I graduated from high school I would not go to college because of my financial needs. However, Daemen College has geared me up and I’m not giving up on my education." - student Oluwakemi I. (Nigeria), 2007.


“Refugee youth face many challenges,” stated Cheryl Bird, Executive Director of the Daemen Center for Sustainable Communities & Civic Engagement. “Language and cultural barriers are exacerbated as newcomers are required to enroll in school immediately upon entering the United States. The school system places refugee youth according to their age, not their abilities, putting them at risk for academic failure.


“Our program focuses primarily on helping refugee teens--juniors and seniors--with Regents exam preparation, SAT/ACT preparation, and preparing refugee teens to consider college. In addition, Daemen undergraduate service learning students serve as tutors and mentors for refugee youth.”


One of the highlights of the program is the opportunity for the refugee teens to visit Daemen College. This provides an opportunity for the youth to learn about and envision postsecondary education.  Since January of 2010, 130 students have actively participated; in the past two academic years (ending  6/2010 and 6/2011), 88 percent of the participants who were seniors, or 23 students, graduated from high school.


The Refugee Teen Empowerment Program is open to all youth regardless of nationality; the overwhelming majority of youth, approximately 95 percent, are refugees. In 2010, the majority of youth who participated in the program (56 percent) were of African descent; 56 percent were female. Of the teens who participated in 2010-11, 94 percent were classified as English Language Learners and 17 percent were classified as Students with Interrupted Formal Education. All of the program participants live below the poverty level.


In 2011-2012, the Refugee Teen Empowerment Program is being hosted at Lafayette High School; the program began October 3, 2011. Certified teachers develop and oversee the program. Students participate in after-school tutoring and mentoring and receive a healthy snack. Daemen undergraduate service-learning students serve as tutors and mentors, offering valuable exposure to college life and the possibility of college after high school.


Currently, 59 students have signed up for the program; the countries represented include Congo; Kenya; Somalia; Thailand; Nepal; Burundi; Burma; Puerto Rico; and Cuba. Participating students speak the following languages: Arabi; Swahili; Somali; Zigua; Mai Mai; Chin; Karen; Arenni; French; Burmese; Kurundi; Kinyarwanda; Kiwahali; Nepali; Keyzeegala; and Spanish.


Evaluations are done at the end of fall and spring semesters. Regents exams in the area of greatest need for each student are used as a pre-test to determine the weakest areas for learning. The post-test is a second Regents examination in the targeted subject area to determine the extent to which the students improved. The Castle Online Learning system also provides systematic feedback to students. The students complete a narrative evaluation to provide feedback on the program at the end of each semester, in addition to evaluations by instructors. The percentage of students who are seniors who graduate from high school are also tracked.


A partial list of seniors from 2008 to 2011 and the colleges to which they continued includes:


 Hodan ’08 - (Somalia) - Buffalo State College

 Saladi '08 - (Somalia) - Daemen College

 Sounai '08 - (Afghanistan) - Daemen College

 Alan '08 - (Brazil) - Daemen College

 Manal '09 - (Syria) - Erie Community College

 Mberwa '10 - Buffalo State College

 Marisol '11 - (Puerto Rico) - Erie Community College, Nursing

 Yamuna '11 - (Nepal) - Daemen College, Nursing

 Melanie '11- (Puerto Rico) - Erie Community College, Nursing

 Khagi '11- (Nepal) - Erie Community College, Nursing

 Saynab '11- (Somalia) - D'Youville College, Pre-Med

 Durga '11 - (Nepal) - D'Youville College, Nursing

 Der Lwe '11 - (Burma) - Erie Community College, with plans to transfer to Buffalo State


Daemen College has successfully procured funds from The Bettina Weary Trust, The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Erie County, The American Association of University Women Buffalo Branch, and The Youth Character Development Foundation to provide services to refugee teens. We are seeking partners to provide funding for teachers, books, and bus tokens for youth who are beyond walking distance from the school. We welcome opportunities for collaboration and fully support public recognition activities.


About Daemen & the Center for Sustainable Communities & Civic Engagement


The Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement at Daemen College (CSCCE) was formally established in Fall 2001, through a grant from The John R. Oishei Foundation. The CSCCE provides education and resources to the Daemen community, and the community-at-large, about issues of sustainability. The Center partners Daemen College students and faculty with local underserved communities to promote a lifetime commitment to civic responsibility, with a focus on building assets for generations to come. For the past four years, Daemen College has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and in 2008 was one of nine institutions in New York State to receive the special designation “with Distinction” for our outreach with at-risk youth.

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