Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (PAIR)
Rashae Williams, SVR volunteer interview with
Rachel O’Connell, Global Scholars Program Coordinator, Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees
March 30, 2021
About the Program
PAIR is a nonprofit in Houston, Texas that, “through educational mentoring programs empowers refugee youth to navigate American society, reach their academic potential, and become community leaders.” First created in 2006 as a tutoring program by students at Rice University, PAIR was formed due to the “significant economic and educational needs that weren't being met by refugee resettlement agencies.” It has now grown to have three facets: a college access program (also called the Global Scholars program), which focuses on academic enrichment and career/college planning; the Global Leaders program; and the Global Learners program. The latter two are after-school enrichment programs that provide academic and socio-emotional support. These programs also provide scholarships and counseling for those who come into their main office. PAIR has 5 full-time staff members, 3 part time staff members, 3-5 interns, 2 social workers, plus volunteer coordinators, volunteer mentors, and volunteer tutors.
Participants and Eligibility
There are no specific requirements to be a part of PAIR, besides identifying as a refugee, aslyee, or SIV youth. The organization recruits through word of mouth, school rosters, and classroom visits. Rachel shared that students themselves are the strongest recruiters, letting others know about their experience. While PAIR’s mission statement is to support refugee youth, sometimes non-refugee identifying youth may join the program. While these students may not be able to access some services reserved for refugee youth, they are still welcomed in group programs, such as tutoring, workshops or mentorships. Rachel says “it’s important for us to have a community feel, to make sure that even when we can’t support the students in all aspects, that they know ‘you're still welcome to come; you're welcome here".
PAIR strives to educate the community about the value refugee students bring and the critical need for community members to be involved in promoting these messages. Many refugee students are resettled into undeserved schools that often can’t provide for all of their unique needs. Language barriers make it difficult for students to adjust and score well on standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, and students often face difficulties supporting their families while going to school. Oftentimes, this leads to challenges with student retention.
Rachel emphasized that visibility is important, “that the community also knows and understands what their students are doing in an empowering way. So many times they are defined by their refugee identities and tragic past history, but these students are very empowered and have a lot to offer. We think it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of what they have overcome and how quickly they learned and where they’re going and their hopes and dreams.” PAIR recently developed a refugee voice platform to share resettlement and refugee stories of students.
Meet SVR Volunteer, Rashae Williams
Rashae Williams (she/her) graduated Spring 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies. She is excited to attend Rutger’s University - Newark this fall to earn an MPA with a concentration in nonprofit management. Prior to working with SVR, Rashae interned with OneRefugee, a nonprofit that helps students with a refugee background obtain higher education and the IRC in Utah.She initially developed a love for refugee and nonprofit work by volunteering at the Women and Children detention center in Dilley, TX.