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Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest Refugee and Immigration Services

Anisha Rai, SVR volunteer interview with
Emily Macaluso  from Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest Refugee and Immigration Services’ K-12 Refugee Education Program

January 22, 2021 



Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (LSS-SW) is a not-for-profit organization that supports individuals of a refugee and immigrant background in Maricopa County and Tucson, Arizona. Their K-12 Refugee Education Program consists of newcomer support, after-school tutoring, and helping students plan for their futures. Until recently, their work with high schoolers focused more on course completion than post-secondary preparation. To address this, they partnered with One Stone and utilized their program called Living in Beta. Living in Beta launched its program with several high school students this year.This program is designed to give students the opportunity to think about their passions and develop a sense of purpose about their futures.This way, when the students graduate high school, they have an idea of what they want to pursue as a post-secondary option. This is important as college is expensive, and having an understanding of one’s goals before beginning can lead to more focused exploration in college. Living in Beta is being conducted completely virtually during the pandemic and takes place during whatever time the group leader and the students are available. Since learning about this program during the interview, I have been volunteering as a mentor myself. 

During the interview, Emily and I discussed the challenges refugees face when they first arrive in the United States. One main challenge is the language barrier many students experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges further by revealing digital literacy gaps. Employees of LSS-SW’s Refugee Education Program do not have access to student information such as school log-ins or passwords, and newcomers are unfamiliar with computers so it is challenging to help students navigate their online learning systems. This recent move to virtual learning means just accessing their homework can be difficult for students. The services provided by the K-12 Refugee Education Program are limited because schools cannot share student information with the organization’s employees due to student privacy laws. Without access to student grades, homework assignments, and teachers, it is difficult to provide academic support for students who are struggling to adapt to virtual learning. Having to navigate e-learning on top of being new to the country is already a great challenge for many refugee students. 

Meet SVR Volunteer,Anisha Rai

Anisha Rai, SVR Steering Committee Member. 

Anisha Rai (She/Hers) is a first-year student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is planning to major in Political Science, but still exploring her options. For the past four years, she has been part of the GirlFoward community. She took part in many of their fundraising events, vocalizing what it means to be a woman and refugee in her community. She was also one of the first members to be part of the Girlforward Advisory Board. 

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