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Expanded Support for Multicultural Youth

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This fall, Burlington High School sophomore, Sango, was struggling to understand her classes. Sango was born in Somalia and her first language is Swahili. She was having trouble structuring sentences in English and using the metric system.

In September, Sango’s teacher referred her to the Help Desk in the school library. Since then, Marelyn, our Multicultural Youth Program (MYP) AmeriCorps staff member, has given Sango support with both her math and English classes as well as encouraged her to ask for more help when she needs it.

“The Help Desk was launched at the request of the Burlington School District,” says Marelyn, “when they found that several students from refugee families were dropping out of high school due to the challenges they faced at school and at home.”

MYP has Help Desks in Burlington, Winooski, and now Essex High Schools, staffed with help from the Association of Africans Living in Vermont, Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, and the Community and Economic Development Office. We also provide support out of school through organized community activities, an after-school space for extra assistance, and an annual Youth Leadership Conference.

“For students new to the US, understanding what is going on at school can be difficult, to say the least,” says Daimeyon Williams, the MYP Manager at Spectrum. “The Help Desks are really there so our staff can provide on-site assistance with any challenge that a student who identifies as multicultural might be facing, whether that’s academic, at home or work, or out in the community.”

“My teachers were the ones who told me about the Help Desk and then I met some of the help desk guys. I’ve now come at least ten times to get help with my work,” Sango says.

Since Sango began getting help, her grades have improved and she is able to understand more in her classes. Most importantly, she now has the confidence to ask for help when she needs it.

We now have Help Desks in three local high schools to support youth from
multicultural families and provide extra help to their teachers and administrators.

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