Roza Promotions, Inc.
Roza Promotions, Inc.
Roza Promotions, Inc. vigorously advocates for and provides culturally appropriate counseling, education, and information to African immigrants and refugees. The program largely serves Liberians, as well as Sierra Leoneans, Ghanaians, and Guineans. The program focuses on disadvantaged children of African descent living primarily in Staten Island, as well as other parts of New York City. In the early to mid 1990s, large numbers of West African refugees were resettled in Staten Island. Many of the new arrivals lacked previous formal education and, according to the schools, approximately 85% of the refugee children in the area were functioning below their grade level, leading to academic frustration and a risk of youth problem behaviors. Building on an NYU Trauma Center study, a community needs assessment, and the observations of Mr. Rufus Arkoi, a Liberian community leader in Staten Island and future director of Roza Promotions, Inc., Mr. Arkoi developed after-school programs for refugee children and youth on Staten Island. The goals were to keep the youth off the streets, teach them good citizenship, and to help them succeed academically and socially. Mr. Arkoi modeled this program on a successful youth soccer program he developed in Liberia in 1981. Again using his soccer skills, he created Roza Promotions, Inc. and helped the refugee community in Staten Island. Roza, an African word meaning "survivor" (as well as an acronym for Mr. Arkoi's own name), accurately describes the program's aim of serving child and youth survivors of war.
Currently, Roza Promotions, Inc. offers youth educational programs to refugee children to help them succeed in school, sports and recreation programs to offer them positive alternatives to life in the streets, and summer programs. Educational Programs Roza Promotions, Inc. provides refugee youth with after-school tutorial and homework assistance. The program helps youth prepare for college entrance exams or study for their GED and teaches youth computer literacy. Furthermore, Roza Promotions, Inc. helps refugee youth prepare their resume, gives them interviewing tips, and helps with overall job readiness. Typically, the youth arrive at the African Community Center after school around 3:30pm, where they focus primarily on homework completion and reading practice, after which they are allowed time on the computers and the Internet.
Sports and Recreation Program: Boys and Girls Soccer Team In 1995, Mr. Arkoi started a soccer program for local African immigrants and refugees as a part of Roza Promotions Inc. The soccer program began with one team, the Park Hill Rangers, and has since expaned to include: an under-19 program, the Roza Rangers; two under-14 teams, the Roza Lions (boys) and Roza Angels (girls); and the under -10 team, the Roza Tigers. The teams are registered in two soccer leagues: the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (city wide) and the Staten Island Soccer League (Island only), which run from September to June each year. Additionally, children take field trips to area sporting events and attractions, such as Yankees' or Mets' games, or to theme parks, such as Great Adventure. In addition, the sports and recreation component of Roza Promotions, Inc. includes organized recreation at PS 57, the neighborhood public school. Through the program, refugee children and youth are exposed to multiple sports including volleyball, basketball, touch football, kickball, and double-dutch jumprope.
Summer Programs: In addition to year round academic and sports and recreation programs, summer programs are also conducted for the community by Roza Promotions, Inc. The summer programs offer children sports as well as community, cultural, and educational activities. Summer sports teams, such as soccer and kickball, are added for college students age 18 and above, in addition to the teams for youth and children. During the 2nd weekend in August, Roza hosts "The African Cup of Nations" on Staten Island. Various West African communities participate in this soccer tournament. A central aspect to the summer programs are the events Roza Promotions, Inc. arranges to facilitate the social interaction between the African refugee community in Staten Island and other communities around the USA. Many programs encourage interaction with other Liberian or Sierra Leonean youth, in addition to activities in which the youth interact with and compete against youth from other diverse cultures.
The program serves the Liberian and Sierra Leonean refugee communities of Staten Island, predominately in Stapleton and Clifton. Approximately 70 children participate in the educational programs and over 135 boys and 60 girls participate in the sports and recreation programs.
In addition, Roza Promotions, Inc. opened an office in Minnesota in 2002, where it also serves Liberian refugee children and youth. There are approximately 220 youth participating in the sports and recreation programs in Minnesota.
Roza Promotions, Inc. has been awarded funding over the past 10 years by the Staten Island councilmen, as well as receiving various grants in certain years from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (1999-2000) and the New York Foundation. Roza Promotions, Inc. is also made possible through private donations and community fundraisers. There remains an ongoing and critical need for additional funding.
Three part-time staff manage the programs of Roza Promotions, Inc. including an Executive Director, Sports Director, and a Treasurer. The programs also function with the help of various volunteers. Previously, the staff and board received training from the Community Resource Exchange, which is a nonprofit consulting firm that provides technical assistance to organizations in New York City that fight poverty.
Participants in the programs have been given questionnaires to fill out in order to evaluate the services provided. Roza Promotions, Inc. also evaluates its success by frequently speaking one-on-one with the program participants. The director creates relationships with each youth in the program by interacting with them daily, attending their sport games, and attending important events, such as commencements. In this way, Roza Promotions is able to track how well youth in this program are doing on their sports teams, in schools, and after graduation. Additionally, the program continues to attract a steady, high number of participants in the programs.
Roza Promotions Inc. began in Liberia in 1981 and in the United States, on Staten Island, in 1994. It is still operating year round as of May 2007.