This summer I interned as a Peer Mentor at the Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA) through the International Rescue Committee (IRC). As a Peer mentor, my job was to help newly arrived refugee youth to succeed at their high school grade level in the New York City public school system. Every day, I worked with high-school level students called Upper School three, A.K.A the “Daring Dragons” in small groups. I tutored and taught them in subjects like English, Mathematics, Writing and Reading. Since English was a second language to all my students, I had to utilize my French and Spanish language skills to help explain concepts and course material. Likewise, I facilitated group activities to ensure social-emotional development, productivity, and understanding of course material. In addition, I worked with students and staff of diverse cultural backgrounds to promote diversity. I consistently implemented classroom, health and safety procedures to meet the IRC-RYSA standards. On Fridays, RYSA students and staff went on trips to explore and teach RYSA students about the rich history and culture of New York City. Our Friday trips and activities helped our students identify and understand historic sites and popular New York City landmarks such as Ellis Island, Lady Liberty, the Tenement Museum, El Museo del Barrio, Wall Street and many more.
My experiences were eye-opening because, I learned a lot about the hardships many of my students faced in their previous countries. Although they had been through difficulties, they were always ready to learn and participate in academic and social activities. It was amazing to see one of my students who had never been to school in her life excel in Mathematics and grasp the English language so well and quickly. It was more amazing to find out that, she has only been in the United States for two months. Furthermore, I enjoyed my students telling me that they loved attending school and learning from others. Many of my female students who were not given the opportunity to have an education in their countries expressed to me that, they one day hoped to become doctors so that they could aid the sick and poor in their countries.
The highlight of my internship was always seeing my students requesting for my help because I challenged them and explained concepts and course material on a level in which they understood. My belief in them made them believe in themselves. Every day this summer was intense and demanding but seeing my students write essays and complete math packets correctly was very rewarding.
To Skidmore students looking for internships next summer and beyond, be aware of your strongest skills and meet with your advisor at Career Development Center to help match you to internships that best fit you. Also have a professor or a peer provide feedback on your essays to maximize your chances of receiving an internship award. Lastly, utilize your friends and ask them where they interned. They can share their internship experiences and possibly recommend their internship opportunities to you.