Daemen Teen Refugee Program Receives Support from American Association of University Women

Daemen Refugee Teen Empowerment Program to Buy Exam Preparation Books with American Association of University Women Award


June 1, 2012


Contact:  Cheryl Bird

                 Executive Director

                 Daemen Center for Sustainable Communities &

                 Civic Engagement

                 (716 839-8489



           Daemen College has been awarded $875 from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Buffalo Chapter through its 2012 Grassroots Grants Program.  Funds will be used to purchase Regents exam preparation books for youth participating in the Refugee Teen Empowerment Program in the 2012-13 academic year.


           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.


           “Refugee youth face many challenges,” stated Cheryl Bird, Executive Director of the Daemen Center for Sustainable Communities & Civic Engagement. “Refugee youth are required to enroll in school immediately upon entering the United States, and the school system places them according to their age, not their abilities, putting them at risk for academic failure.  Our program offers critical academic support for Regents exams and SATs."


           The Refugee Teen Empowerment Program helps refugee youth achieve dreams of a college education and success in their new lives. M. J., a female refugee student at Lafayette High School, is a participant in the program. Born in Somalia, she spent the majority of her life in the refugee camps in Kenya before coming to Buffalo. 


           "I want to be the first one in my family to graduate from college, and make them proud,” she said. “This is an opportunity that I would not have had if I stayed in Africa.  A college education will allow me to help myself and help my family, who has given me so much."  Helping refugee youth to achieve their dreams of a college education and success in their new lives is the purpose of this program.


           The Refugee Teen Empowerment Program is held after school during the academic year at Lafayette High.  In the 2011-2012 academic year, 64% of the students in the Refugee Teen Empowerment Program – 32 – were female.  Per school policy, the program is open to all youth regardless of nationality; the overwhelming majority of youth (~95%) are refugee status.  Of the teens who are participating in the spring semester, 94% were classified as English Language Learners; 17% are classified as SIFE (Students with Interrupted Formal Education).  All of the students live below the poverty level. 


           Participating refugee students are from Congo; Kenya; Somalia; Thailand; Nepal; Burundi; Burma; and Cuba.  The represented native languages of the students include Arabi, Swahili, Somali, Zigua, Mai Mai, Chin, Karen, Karenni, French, Burmese, Kurundi, Kinyarwanda, Kiwahali, Nepali, Keyzeegala, and Spanish.  


           Daemen undergraduate service learning students serve as tutors and mentors for refugee youth; the program is developed and overseen by Certified Buffalo Public School teachers. This past academic year, 28 Daemen students served as tutors and mentors, offering the refugee students valuable exposure to college life and the possibility of college after high school. 


           Since January 2010, 130 refugee students have actively participated in the program. In the past two academic years (ending June 2010 and June 2011), 88% of the participants who were seniors – a total of 23 – graduated from high school.  


           The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Buffalo Branch was founded in 1890, and is one of the largest AAUW branches in New York State, with over 200 members. The goal of the Grassroots Grants program is the promotion of equity, gender awareness and lifelong learning.


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The Daemen College Weighted Average Ultimate Pass Rate based on the most current data as reported by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (2009-2011) is 100%, with our graduates demonstrating first time pass rates above both state and national averages each year.

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