Promising Practices Program

Administering Organization

Ethiopian Community Development Council /African Community Center

Program Name

The Refugee Youth Outreach Program (RYOP)

Program Objectives and Unique Needs Addressed

The Refugee Youth Outreach Program (RYOP) seeks to raise awareness of refugee issues through empowerment and leadership skills programming for refugee youth to facilitate their academic and social integration in Denver, CO.

The RYOP works specifically with newcomer refugee youth to build their English language and life skills. The program also works to increase academic success through a partnership with Bennie Goodwin, a non-profit reading program. Other ACC programs such as Summer Programming and Enrichment activities are essential to RYOP.

Program Description

The Refugee Youth Outreach Program consists of the following components:

  1. The Enrichment Program assists students with their English skills through interactive activities such as art, music, theater and martial arts. Enrichment activities give the youth an opportunity to experience new games and environments, while building intercultural friendships and understanding. These activities allow students to increase their learning capacity and immerse themselves in the English language.
  2. The Colorado Refugee Youth Scholarship Program (CRYSP) assists scholars with the transition to college and promotes higher education. 10-12 college students per year receive $1,000 scholarships, along with support services.
  3. The Summer Program provides activities emphasizing cultural awareness, while preparing newcomer youth (those in U.S. a year or less) for school enrollment.
  4. The Soccer Program creates an atmosphere of social inclusion, interactions, and positive youth development in refugee youth. It creates a sense of community and friendship among the youth and allows them to play together at a sport they love.

Resource Materials Used in Program

The RYOP utilizes best practices established by BRYCS; donations; and volunteers. RYOP uses the curriculum, "LifeSkills Training: Promoting Health and Personal Development" (by Gilbert J. Botvin, published by Princeton Health Press); a cultural orientation component has been added and called "Skills for New American Kids" (SNAK). Games and sports equipment are also used to increase program effectiveness.

Groups Served by Program

The RYOP serves newly arrived refugee youth (arriving within the past 12 months) between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. The RYOP has served more than 300 refugee youth from 15 nationalities since its inception in 2005. It receives referrals from the three local voluntary refugee resettlement agencies in Denver (ERIS, ACC, LFS). Since the program started in 2005, the RYOP has served more than 300 refugee youth from 15 nationalities. It receives referrals from the three voluntary refugee resettlement agencies in Denver (Ecumenical Refugee and Immigration Services, African Community Center and Lutheran Family Services). The three largest ethnic populations currently being served are Burmese, Nepali, and Congolese youth.

Program Funding

Private and State Foundations, along with fundraisers and private donations. Currently ACC has Statewide Strategic Use Funds (SSUF) through June 2011, and also receives funding from the Frank Foundation.

Program Staffing and Required Staff Training

This program is run by a manager, a school enrollment coordinator, AmeriCorps volunteer, interns, and numerous other volunteers. All go through a cultural orientation and trainings to prepare for work with refugees Volunteers attend a training on ACC and a personalized training using the Youth Program Manual (depending on their role in the youth department). All volunteers, interns and staff undergo a Colorado Background Check.

Program Evaluation

Evaluation Methods measure the success of program activities primarily through qualitative measurements. Data is collected by means of pre- and post-surveys as well as daily interaction and conversations with participants. Through a collaboration with the Partnership for Families and Children (PFFC), RYOP was able to specify process and outcome objectives and design measures that provide both process and outcome data. The RYOP activities are defined as successful in the case that evaluation findings demonstrate:

  • Parents indicate an increase in understanding systems navigation to seek family resources.
  • Youth indicate a self-measured increase in:
    • Sense of belonging in refugee youth’s new communities;
    • Self-esteem and motivation at school and in other activities;
    • Knowledge about the perceived risks/harms of tobacco, drug and alcohol use, and risky behaviors including pre-marital sex;
    • Ability to handle bullying-related, or other challenging social situations; and
    • Completion of community projects, and participation in sports programming.

Youth participating in past programming stay involved with ACC activities, mentor younger participants, and provide positive leadership models for newly-arrived youth.

Program Outcomes

Enrichment Activities include all participants in the after-school program who engage in five to six enrichment activities per semester. Students have participated in activities revolving around dance, art, and music. On average, the soccer program has 30-60 youth show up to practices and games. Youth come in both rain or shine, cold or hot weather as a testament to their devotion to the team and their love of soccer. The CRYSP program includes completion of workshops offered bi-weekly for two and a half hours for 12 weeks at ACC’s Learning Center. The program supports 10-12 scholars with a $1,000 scholarship.

Additional Comments

ACC has also created the curriculum Refugee Education for Awareness, Change and Hope (REACH) to inform American students about the refugee experience. (Please see the website for details)

Program Contact

Brenda Herrera-Moreno, Youth Program Coordinator

Program Dates

This program runs year round, including school holidays and summer programming. This program has been operating since 2005 and is still operating as of May 2011.