Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR);

Program Name

PAIR Houston

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

PAIR provides educational mentoring programs for refugee youth in middle and high school. Programs are either held in the after-school setting or are through a community-based model. Through both college and community volunteer mentors, PAIR promotes positive youth development and education as a path to self-sufficiency. Programs offer academic enrichment, cross-cultural understanding, and the resources and motivation to pursue higher education and career opportunities. When resettlement was at an all-time high in 2016, nearly 3,000 refugees were arriving in Houston each year, 23% of whom were school-aged. While the current trend is down for refugee resettlement, the kids who arrived are still in the local school system and facing the challenges to adapt and barriers to succeed. PAIR is the only organization in Houston dedicated exclusively to supporting refugee youth. 

Program Description

PAIR's integrated series of programs aim to support youth from the time they arrive through high school graduation. By supporting vulnerable youth during their critical early adjustment to their new lives in the Houston community, PAIR's programs allow youth to pursue an educational path that will improve their quality of life and fully develop their potential. 

PAIR youth are truly citizens of the world, and we support these youth as they explore their new homes in Houston, learn through new educational opportunities, and succeed in becoming global leaders.  

PAIR's programs include: 

Global Learners:
PAIR operates their Global Learners programs at three middle schools with significant refugee populations. PAIR volunteer mentors meet with students at their schools to provide supportive relationships, homework assistance, English language practice, and recreational and creative activities. Sessions begin with outside games and homework help, to transition from the school day. Student and mentor groups then break off for the main lesson centered on such topics as social and emotional skill building, identity, teamwork, academics, technology, and more. Sessions are meant to be fun while encouraging English language acquisition and social/emotional and academic skill building. Global Learners assists participants in developing more positive attitudes toward school, achieving greater academic success, developing more positive relationships with peers and adults, and continuing their education through high school and beyond.

Global Leaders:
PAIR operates their Global Leaders programs at two high school with significant refugee populations. PAIR volunteer mentors help students explore topics including careers, post-high school education and training options, academic planning, SAT preparation, college essay writing, participating in extracurricular activities, job interview skills, and writing a résumé. Students develop personal goals and educational plans, participate in community service projects, and cultivate leadership skills. Global Leaders works to increase understanding of students for life beyond high school through educational and career exploration and skill building.

Global Scholars:
The Global Scholars program enhances PAIR's existing after-school support for resettled refugee youth in their pursuit of high school graduation, career exploration, and post-secondary education. In this community-based program, adult volunteer mentors are paired with students in 11th or 12th grade of high school. Each mentor commits to supporting and guiding a young refugee for a period of at least one year to help the student develop and reach his or her personal, academic, and career potential. Students in the Global Scholars program receive case management services from PAIR staff and focus on activities that include researching careers, applying for college, writing personal statements, completing financial aid and scholarship applications, and transitioning to college life.

PAIR Summer Program:
In PAIR's Summer Programs, students from all of the academic year programs participate in opportunities to continuing their learning throughout the summer months. Some programs are provided solely to PAIR students and may be in partnership with other local organizations or groups. Other programs may be open to a general audience, and PAIR identifies students who would be well-suited to participate in such a program. Students are able to see more of the Houston community, conduct science experiments, play games, meet new people, practice English, and more! One of the summer programs also includes a Junior Counselor component wherein a small group of students from PAIR's high school programs gain work experience and build their leadership skills as part of the staff team.

Resource Materials Used in Program

Curriculum for students can change year-to-year and even by site. Based on the needs of the students within each program, curriculum and lesson plans are developed by staff. There are general themes and topics that PAIR focuses on annually, but the exact activities may change.

Groups Served by Program

Refugee youth enrolled in middle school or high school are served by PAIR programs.

Program Funding

PAIR is primarily funded through grants from local and national foundations. Some funds also come through local government grants and individual donations.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

PAIR has full-time staff who manage development, community engagement, and the three primary programs. Part-time staff either run programs at particular school sites or assist the full-time staff member within their assigned program. AmeriCorps VISTAs support various capacity-building efforts for the organization.

PAIR's programs are also supported by dedicated volunteers. There are student volunteer chapters at Rice University and the University of Houston which recruit the majority of volunteers for the after-school programs. Other local colleges and some local high schools also provide volunteers and resources.  PAIR also sources volunteers from the broader community.  

PAIR staff are trained at the beginning of each school year and at an on-going basis throughout the year with support from local organizations. All volunteers are required to attend formal training sessions once a semester and may require supplemental training throughout the year to continually educate volunteers in various areas, such as working with youth, mentoring and tutoring, and cultural competency/sensitivity. Volunteers also learn basic knowledge of the refugee resettlement process and background information on different cultural groups.

Program Evaluation

Attendance of refugee youth and volunteer mentors are primary mechanisms of evaluation, as well as results from pre- and post-program surveys administered to students and volunteers to assess indicators such as student adjustment, social competency, self-esteem, school engagement, risky behaviors, and quality of the mentor-youth relationship. Long-term successes will be evaluated by measuring high school graduation and college admission rates.

Program Outcomes

PAIR currently serves approximately 300 youth each semester. Data from the 2016-2017 school year shows students view the programs positively, with the majority indicating on surveys that they are more engaged in school, they believe in the importance of education, and they have learned new skills that will help them be academically successful in the future. More students believe they can obtain higher education after participation in PAIR programs.

Additional Comments

While serving refugee youth is PAIR's primary focus, PAIR's model also provides its volunteers with leadership opportunities and experiences that increase their understanding of global issues and ability to work with diverse cultures.

Program Contact

Program Dates

This program began in January 2007 and is still operating as of 2018.