Dayton Public Schools (DPS) in Dayton, Ohio has established a number of efforts to help refugee children with academic performance and socialization.   Recognizing that newcomer children often struggle in their transition to U.S. schools, DPS has established a Welcome Center and individualized mentoring and tutoring with community volunteers, with the goal to smooth their transition and help them thrive. It’s a reciprocal relationship, for refugee students enrich the lives of their mentors, as much as the mentors help them.

“To know that I can help accelerate a student’s learning, share my culture with other people, and help them acclimate into the United States is really important to me,” said volunteer mentor Melissa Bertolo, who’s also the city’s Welcome Dayton coordinator. For an hour every week, she meets with a Congolese refugee student whose decade-long journey to Dayton meant that he was never in one place long enough to attend school.  Bertolo helps her mentee with homework, understanding English, navigating American culture, and thinking about college. The Welcome Center also includes a ‘parent university,’ with a goal to engage and help the whole family.

While refugee mentors don’t need special qualifications or certifications, they’re asked to commit at least one year, participate in a “Refugee 101” class by Catholic Social Services, and undergo literacy and ESL training through a district partnership with Project READ. In turn, refugee students and their families sign a ‘contract’ with the Welcome Center, promising to follow through with the mentoring program.

For more information, visit Welcome Dayton or contact

Hubert Matumaini

Welcome Center Coordinator

Dayton Public Schools

[email protected]