As MC students head into the second half of the school year, many seniors are focused on completing their graduation requirements. For seniors Malini Mahajan and Josh Hoch, this is the class requirement of community service needed before they start packing for college this summer. The two have started their hours by volunteering at San Diego Refugee Tutoring (SDRT).
“SDRT is a program aimed towards bridging the gap that many refugee students face when immigrating to another country,” Mahajan said.
When immigrating to a new country, young children have to readily adapt to a new country. With a new country comes a new school and for many of these students, education was scarce in their home country. This means even if a child has never been to school a day in their life they will still be put in the grade matched with their age.
“The founders of the program noticed that though many of the parents recognized the need to help their students outside of school they couldn’t because they didn’t go to school inside the US and many did not speak English,” Mahajan said.
In response to this, teachers decided to create a setting in which students could receive the support they needed.
Mahajan and Hoch originally joined the tutoring program to fill the graduation requirement of community service, but the program soon became something more important to the seniors.
“The students in the program are extremely appreciative of everything: supplies, teachers, new books. It really makes you take note of what you take for granted,” Hoch said.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, as of the last seven years, San Diego has taken in more refugees than any other county in California, with an average of 3,000 refugees per year. Most refugees immigrate with their families so that their children can grow up away from the violence and war threatening their home countries and and have access to better education.
“We are fortunate enough to grow up in a community with such an effective education system a lot of places in the world aren’t fortunate enough to have,” Hoch said.
Appreciative of having a free education his whole life, Hoch found it crucial to find a way to use his advantage to help children who are not as fortunate.
“I figured that being an individual with that fortunate of a background, I can give back. Education is key to creating a brighter future for these [people],” Hoch said.
This type of thinking is what the founders of SDRT are constantly looking for in volunteers for this great cause. The tutoring program is in East City Heights from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays at Ibarra Elementary School.
“To join you go to a 30 to 40 minute orientation which you can RSVP to online at their website sdrefugeetutoring.com, and you are a volunteer,” Mahajan said. “The website is extremely helpful and when you get there, the head instructors who run the program are really nice and can tell when it’s your first time volunteering and are there to help.”
Another unusual aspect of the nonprofit is that there is no age requirement to become a tutor. The current tutors range from retired teachers to elementary school students.
“Really anyone at any grade level can join and benefit from being a tutor,” Mahajan said. “The thing is, yes you might be tutoring students from grades preschool to middle school, but even if you are the same age as your student they are having a very different experience than you had in middle school so you are still going to be able to help them.”
This program was initially established to give refugee students a chance to receive one on one time with a tutor to help them work on writing, reading, and math, but SDRT has evolved into a way for the students to get the guidance and support they need to begin their lives in a new country.
“Education is a huge factor in the assimilation of these refugees,” Mahajan said. “Programs like SDRT enable these young students to further their education in hopes of establishing a life here in the US.”