Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Refugee Transitions

Program Name

Bridge-2-Success Refugee Youth Development Program

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

The Bridge-2-Success Refugee Youth Development Program (based in San Francisco, Oakland, and Fremont, California) provides refugee youth with the support and opportunities they need to succeed academically, develop career-readiness skills, and develop supportive relationships with adults and peers. Refugee Transitions has the only home-based tutoring/mentoring program designed specifically for refugee youth in the Bay Area. We give priority to youth who are struggling academically or emotionally due to language issues and/or post-traumatic stress.

Program Description

  • Refugee Transitions recruits, trains, and matches volunteer tutors with refugee youth, ages 7-17, for individualized home-based tutoring and mentoring. The program also offers on-site academic and career-readiness workshops.
  • Recruit and Assess Needs of Youths
  • Bay Area organizations and schools work with Refugee Transitions to identify and refer youth that are most at-risk for academic and adjustment issues to Refugee Transitions’ program coordinator.
  • Recruit and Screen Volunteers
  • Refugee Transitions’ program coordinator recruits and screens volunteers. In addition to a minimum six month commitment of working with a youth (1-2 times per week), volunteers are required to fill out an application, participate in an interview, attend preparatory training, undergo a criminal background check, and obtain proof of Tuberculin Screening.
  • Match Volunteers with Youth - Refugee Transitions’ program works with new volunteers and the staff of the referral agencies in order to find the best match between the volunteer tutors and youth participants. The program coordinator accompanies the volunteers on their first visits to meet the youth in order to ensure that both parties feel comfortable with the pairing. Youth participants and volunteers sign a tutoring contract and develop action plans.
  • Provide Ongoing Support for Youth
  • Refugee Transitions staff and volunteers work with teachers and counselors within the school district to provide supplemental academic assistance, attend school meetings to interpret or act on behalf of parents of youth enrolled, and help facilitate Independent Educational Plans (IEP). Refugee Transitions staff also provides computer and career readiness workshops and helps youth prepare resumes, cover letters, and do on-line job searches.
  • Provide Ongoing Support for Volunteers
  • Refugee Transitions coordinates ongoing support meetings for volunteers. In addition, Refugee Transitions staff maintain a youth and volunteer database; keep in regular contact with volunteers, assist volunteers with questions related to tutoring and parent involvement, as well as maintain a resource library in the agency’s office. Refugee Transitions also asks volunteers to fill out a “web log” once a month to track their hours and participants’ progress.

Resource Materials Used in Program

Refugee Transitions has designed a comprehensive training module to help volunteers develop the reading, writing, and math skills of the youth enrolled. Volunteers mainly help youth understand the U.S. educational system and complete homework assignments. To help youth who are not literate in English or who have basic English proficiency, Refugee Transitions provides volunteers with books such as The ESL Wonder Workbook #1 by Elizabeth Claire. Volunteers are also given children’s books, lists of reading activities, and links to on-line teaching materials.

Groups Served by Program

Bridge-2-Success Refugee Youth Development Partnership is a comprehensive program that was launched in September 2003. In its first year, Bridge-2-Success provided 69 youth in the Afghan, Bosnian, Cambodian, and Liberian communities, in Alameda County. In 2005, Refugee Transitions expanded the existing Bridge-2-Success program by adding a career-readiness component while continuing to provide family support, academic tutoring, and mentoring to 60 refugee youth from the same target communities, as well as from the Tibetan community.

Program Funding

In addition to foundation and government support, Refugee Transitions receives individual donations from community supporters. The agency recently adopted a new, education-based fund raising model that focuses on awareness building in order to increase its donor base. With this approach, Refugee Transitions anticipates an increase in individual donations and enhanced visibility within the community, ultimately facilitating board and volunteer recruitment.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

The Program operates with a staff of two (FTE) and over 40 volunteer tutors/mentor. Volunteer Training - Volunteers participate in an initial five-hour training led by staff at Refugee Transitions. Trainings cover literacy- and math-tutoring skills, relationship-building strategies, career development techniques, and psychosocial issues. Volunteer tutors also receive information about mental health issues, family literacy, parent involvement, and California public school standards.

Program Evaluation

Volunteers submit monthly logs to track the hours spent with the youth, the activities they participate in together, and the participants’ progress 90% of volunteers report satisfaction with trainings, staff support, and program impact through surveys administered after each supervision meeting or training 80 %of youth served show progress in an academic skill area 80 % of youth served show an increased ability to develop healthy relationships with adult role models outside their own families 80% of youth increase access to community resources and job opportunities 80% of youth increase their knowledge of the U.S. Educational systems.

Program Outcomes

Additional Comments

Other Key Elements: A volunteer has been working with four siblings from Liberia: Alex, Mariam, Ellen, and Mercy, who came to the U.S. after living most of their lives in refugee camps during the 14-year civil war in Liberia. She enrolled the kids in swimming lessons, attended back to school nights and parent-teacher conferences, introduced the kids to the public library and helped them get library cards. The volunteer also helped the family get started in a community garden (which is now providing them with vegetables!) as well as many hours of tutoring. The youth not only have become active members in their community, but have also made significant academic strides thanks to the support of their volunteer!

Program Contact

Andrew Bogrand

Program Dates

This program began in 2003; it is still operating.