Justin Confalone, SVR Volunteer, interview with
Jacqueline Ashby, Director Of Education at Journey's End Refugee Service
April 22, 2021
Jacqueline believes that the broader philosophy of Journey’s End is to aid those they help in any way possible in their journey towards self-sufficiency – with a particular focus on building confidence among refugees. Having experienced so many hoops to make it to Buffalo, there tends to be a hesitation towards the American bureaucratic system. Eliminating this feeling of hesitation is one of the most important skills taught by the MAC program. The MAC program is designed to be similar to a high school, involving field trips, community exposure, and community resource skills.
The main levels of the MAC program are level 1 (basic English/literacy), level 2 (intermediate English/literacy), level 3 (high school style classes taught at the equivalency of an American 8-10th grade level), and level 4 (TASC exam prep and upper level high school instruction). After completing level 4, the majority of MAC’s students pass the exam on the first try and those who do not have always passed on the second to fourth tries. In addition to English literacy, levels 1 and 2 also build on life skills such as finances and community integration. In terms of students moving from one level to the next, there tends to be no pattern. Due to the diversity of students that come through the program (Jacqueline mentioned that it ranges anywhere from preliterate to students who were in college programs in their original country), some start off in higher levels while others progress from level 1.
There are a number of life-pressures and traumas that also show up within students, which can impact a student’s mobility within the program. Students generally have a sense of commonality in the program, and, while some may not have fled from violence, all share in the confusion of the immigration process itself. The shared understanding and acceptance of hurdles, scars, or signs of psychological trauma in the Journey’s End program creates a safe space for students.
In terms of barriers to higher education, the MAC program tends to see many students with financial barriers who have trouble making that investment into higher education. Despite this, students who do transfer into higher education out of this program do very well – even with the individualism that is built into our education system – and tend to be motivated to do so. Similarly, to the RAMP program, the MAC program strives to build a strong relationship between teacher and student. Teachers invest in students and are able to assess their personal goals and individualize the curriculum to them in a way that encourages closeness. Beyond academics, instructors try to create a safe space for students to talk about their lives, get psychosocial support, and build friendships with one another.
The MAC program strives to reframe the common conception that to be a refugee is to have a detriment that requires hand holding. Instead, they believe that the refugee’s ability to endure so much, and to have skills that many could never comprehend makes their position a benefit and not a detriment. The program also intends to shift the cultural paradigms of its students in a way that gives them more of an edge in the American education system – a largely individualistic and opinion-based environment – and does so through encouraging debate and disagreement in a way that is constructive.
Jacqueline believes that in higher education, peer-to-peer cultural competency instruction would be incredibly beneficial to refugees assimilating into a higher education environment. Additionally, the student body can find ways to make campus more inclusive and reflect the real diversity of the United States. She believes that imparting cultural knowledge about major cultures in a diverse university-environment could also help this a lot
Meet SVR Volunteer, Justin Confalone
Justin Confalone (He/His) is pursuing a dual Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Cultural Anthropology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Prior to joining SVR, he conducted much research on refugee populations and the humanitarian frame. Additionally, Justin has done much work in the non-profit sector. The most recent of which is his internship at Neighborhood Rescue of America: a public safety organization that provides education to children in high crime areas of the United States. Going forward, he hopes to pursue a career in International Development or Human Rights Law, two of his passions.