Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

The Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR); Houston, TX

Program Name

PAIR Youth Programming

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

PAIR promotes positive youth development and education as a path to self-sufficiency by connecting young refugees with college and community volunteers to build positive mentoring relationships and provide educational programs that offer academic enrichment, cross-cultural understanding, and the resources and motivation to pursue higher education and career opportunities. As many as 3,000 refugees are arriving in Houston each year, 30% of whom are school-aged. PAIR is the only organization in Houston dedicated exclusively to supporting refugee youth.  Research points to the need for refugee youth to experience a positive adjustment to their new lives in the U.S. by building on their unique assets and by participating in culturally sensitive programs designed to assist them in overcoming challenges. The adjustment period after their arrival is critical to their successful adaptation to school and society. Further, their education is critically linked to both their and their families' integration into American society

Program Description

PAIR's integrated series of programs aim to support youth from the time they arrive through high school graduation and beyond. 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 are: 

Global Explorers:
Newly-arrived refugee youth ages 11-14 participate in a year-long program of mentoring, cultural orientation, and academic enrichment. Group activities are engaging and educational, covering topics such as health, safety, nutrition, exercise, hygiene, handling stress, succeeding in school, managing relationships with family and friends, dealing with bullying and bias, and celebrating the diverse cultures of America—especially their own. Sessions also bolster academic skills, especially English. Students are matched one-to-one with mentors who commit to attending a majority of sessions for the year. Global Explorers assists participants in achieving a smoother transition to their new home and school and a greater understanding of American and school culture; more positive attitudes toward school; increased social competence, self-esteem and confidence; increased interest and participation in school activities; improved English skills; and more positive relationships with peers and adults.

Global Learners:
PAIR operates Global Learners programs at two middle schools with significant refugee populations. PAIR volunteer mentors meet with students who are referred by the teaching and counseling staff at their schools to provide supportive relationships, homework assistance, English language practice, and recreational and creative activities. Sessions begin with outside games, homework help, and sharing time to transition from the school day. Student and mentor groups then break off for an hour of tutoring centered on improving English language acquisition as well as self-expression through the arts. Sessions conclude with a fun, academic activity for the whole class. 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:
Global Leaders is a weekly program for high-school-aged refugee students. 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 career options and the value and possibility of higher education, academic planning, high school graduation rates, interviewing skills, knowledge of financial aid options, number of college and aid applications submitted, and number of youth attending higher education.

College Orientation Day:
Once per semester, PAIR brings a group of refugee youth to a local university campus for a College Orientation Day. Students tour the campus, hear from speakers on the benefits of higher education, and see first-hand the life of a college student.

Resource Materials Used in Program

Educational and recreational materials are used. The organization is in the process of developing a set curriculum for each program.

Groups Served by Program

Refugee youth enrolled in middle school or high school are served by PAIR programs. Support is focused on these age groups because observation has determined younger children adapt more easily, while older youth have more to learn in order to catch up to their peers.

Program Funding

In addition to individual contributors, PAIR is funded through AmeriCorps VISTA and the following private foundations: Rockwell Fund, The Simmons Foundation, Greater Texas Foundation, Exxon Mobil Community Summer Jobs Program, and Caring Friends, Inc.  

PAIR's partners include and in-kind contributors inclue: Houston Independent School District, Neighborhood Centers, Inc., Brays Oaks Managment District, The Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, Catholic Charities, Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, YMCA Houston, Al Amaanah Refugee Services, Houston Chinese Church, Copy Doctor, and the National Council of Jewish Women.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

PAIR has an executive director on staff and its programs are currently being developed and managed through the grant of four AmeriCorps VISTA positions. There are plans to have additional paid staff in the near future. 

PAIR's programs are supported by dedicated volunteers. There are student chapters at Rice University and University of Houston which recruit the majority of volunteers and help plan program activities. Other local colleges also provide volunteers and resources. High school and other community members are also active volunteers. 

PAIR holds formal training sessions once a semester and provides supplemental training an ongoing basis to prepare 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. English proficiency assessments are given once a semester in the Learners program to track progress. Long-term successes will be evaluated by measuring high school graduation and college admission rates.

Program Outcomes

PAIR currently serves approximately 200 youth each semester. Data from the 2010-2011 school year shows students view the programs positively, with the majority indicating on surveys that they feel more confident in their bicultural identities, they are more engaged in school, their English has improved, and they believe in the importance of education. More students believe they can obtain higher education after participation in PAIR programs. Additionally, a report by the Afterschool Alliance confirms the practices PAIR employs in its programming are beneficial for English Language Learners:

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 December 2011.