Advocates for Refugees in Higher Education
Article by Angela Nguyen, SVR volunteer
Advocates for Refugees in Higher Education (ARHE) is an organization that aims to help refugees navigate the higher education process at all stages. It holds advising appointments with students who are over the age of 18 and looking to pursue higher education. They discuss their educational options going forward, how to apply for those opportunities, and what sources of funding exist. Refugees also have the option to participate in ARHE’s mentorship program, which is focused on preparing for and applying to college.
The most important aspect of this organization, from which similarly-situated programs could learn, is that it is not geared solely towards overachieving refugee students. ARHE fills a gap for refugee students who wish to pursue higher education but who may not know how best to do so, or who may lack academic self-confidence, as a result of language barriers or other reasons. It aims to ensure that these students have a path forward, and that they are equally supported throughout every step of the process.
Another particularly successful aspect of this program is that it utilizes connections with professors at higher educational institutions to promote its mission. Specifically, ARHE encourages students looking to establish similar programs at their own schools to connect with professors from their school’s sociology, social work, or education departments. Such professors are aware of the challenges that refugees face and tend to be more willing to work with students to develop the program, as well as willing to advocate for refugees at higher levels of the school. ARHE also utilizes the personal networks of its individual members, ensuring that the program’s scholarship and mentorship initiatives are not solely promoted on its own social platforms, but also on its members’ personal social media platforms, thereby reaching a larger audience.
In order to expand this initiative in the U.S., encouraging individual students across the country to start their own versions of this program and providing them with the resources to do so (information about available scholarship opportunities, how to navigate FAFSA, etc.) is key. While some variation across different schools is to be expected, different programs should all have someone qualified to walk through educational and funding options, as well as a separate mentoring program. They should also be encouraged to work with professors and other students at their university, so that refugees in higher education have a network of people on which they can turn to for guidance and support.