International Rescue Committee
The Students Plus After School Program
The Students Plus Program provides academic support and cultural orientation to refugee teens who are new to the U.S. Academic assistance focuses on English, literacy, math and essential study skills. The program helps students gain an understanding of American customs and practices, while engaging them in making a positive difference in their new community.
Students Plus is an after school program that runs every school day of the academic calendar. The program engages students from 2:30pm (when they get out of school) until 5:30pm. Students work together with volunteer tutors to complete homework assignments, prepare for High School Exit exams, and enhance their language skills. Newcomer students and English Language Learners participate in ESL classes taught at an appropriate level. In addition to academic assistance, Students Plus offers a College class; gender specific support groups; sports; access to a computer lab with Internet; public speaking opportunities through local universities; an Outdoor Adventure Club; a Food Justice and Culinary Arts Club; the Local to Global Club; and a multi-media arts class. There are also opportunities for students to complete community service hours. For students in good academic standing, the Students Plus Program offers monthly field trips to local attractions including the beach, bowling, city parades and celebrations, IMAX, the San Diego Zoo, or gardens and farms to name a few.
After school program uses a variety or curriculum resources. First, the after school program partners with the high school to obtain a copy of books and workbooks for student use. In addition, program staff members collaborate with school day teachers and work together to create an appropriate after school curriculum. Beyond these already prepared curricula, the after school program staff utilize the California Department of Education's website for additional resources. Students Plus then uses a girls' group curriculum and a boys' group curriculum that have been developed by program staff members. Students Plus staff developed the girls' group curriculum in an effort to provide our girls a safe place to address issues they may face as women in their community. The curriculum includes career exploration, jealousy and positive relationships, women's health, women in the workplace, guest speakers, games and quality time. The boys' group curriculum focuses on anger management, physical activity and program coordination, specifically, soccer leagues and tournaments.
The Students Plus Program serves any high school student that attends the Crawford Educational Complex (Crawford High School).
Currently, the program is funded by the California Department of Education for after school high school initiatives: ASSETS. In addition, the program receives donations made by individuals and Take Action: Healthy People, Places, Communities grant.
Students Plus consists of 5 staff members: a Program Manager, an Education Coordinator, a Bilingual Teachers Aide, an AmeriCorps VISTA member, and an AmeriCorps Literacy member. IRC also recruits 150 to 200 volunteers per year. We provide all new volunteers with an orientation to the after school program, as well as an orientation to the various cultural norms the volunteers might experience working with our students. We introduce them to today's high school requirements, student pressures, family pressures, norms of Muslim culture with regard to men and women (shaking hands, gender specific grouping, etc.), the expectations we have for them as volunteers in our program, and how they can provide the best service to our students. We give them a volunteer manual prior to the orientation.
Students Plus defines success in three concrete ways. First, we look at the number of students who use the after school program on an annual basis. Second, we look at the number of regular attendees (students who have attended the program for 30 days or more). Third, we define success by looking at the number of students that graduate each year. Students Plus looks at other academic outcomes including improved student grades, High School Exit Exam pass rates, and standardized test scores. The program collects qualitative data by surveying the teachers of Students Plus members on the members' work habits and conduct in their classes. Lastly, Students Plus defines success by looking at positive youth development over the course of four years. We want to ensure that our students have had the opportunity to experience their new city, learn new skills, try the arts, grow plants in a garden, and experiment with a camera. All after school students will be able to say that they have new skills as a result of staying connected to after school. Their resumes are improved and so are their applications for college. Young people are confident and know how to access resources to help them in the future.
In 2007/2008, the Students Plus Program served 415 students, 70% of whom were refugees. Our program serves a daily average of 60-70 students. Perhaps one of the most positive impacts Students Plus has had on students is the knowledge they gain about scholarships, clubs, teachers, school events, community events, sport events and college deadlines. Students Plus serves as a hub for important information that not only bridges ethnic and community divisions, but also bridges the four schools encompassed at Crawford High.
One of the program's great successes is the overwhelming number of volunteers who make long term commitments to our program. With the help of volunteers, the high school students receive more than homework help; they practice socializing, they learn about college from college students, and they gain a greater understanding of American lifestyles. Many times, students find that they can ask volunteers the questions that they are not comfortable asking other adults.
The program operates every school day of the academic calendar from 2:30-5:30pm. There is also a 7 week long summer program.