Mentor Program - First Generation American Project

By: admin 03 September 2013

Mentor Program - First Generation American Project

By: Ania Jablonowski

On Tuesday, August 27th, First Generation American Project conducted a small group discussion at DePaul University’s loop campus to address the experiences of grammar school students who fall within the demographic of “FGA.”  Specifically, we were interested in learning about whether there is a need to create an afterschool mentorship program that would assist in building language and social skills, while embracing the rich cultural backgrounds of young FGA’s.

Our two-hour small group discussion included the following participants: first generation Americans (adults), academic leaders (educators), and executive directors (problem solvers).

We started off with a presentation about our organization, showcasing the interviews that we have published in Rewia. Through these interviews, we have discovered that many adult first generation Americans share the experience of facing difficulties keeping with their classmates on an academic level due to limited usage of the English language at home. In addition, they tend to recall painful memories of bullying and ostracizing because of their cultural background, accents, or inability to “fit it” with their American peers.  We want to build a program that will enrich the FGA experience by building the vocabulary and confidence of young first generation Americans through teaming them up with adults who can relate to them on a personal level. This would essentially be ESL meets “Big Brother.”

Our participants introduced themselves in regards to their cultural and professional backgrounds. The FGA’s recited information about what their first language was, how they learned English, any difficulties growing up with two or more language, how they would compare their vocabulary to their American peers, and what instances did they feel like they stood out from others. The educators provided an overview of their FGA students (grammar, high school, and college level), how they deal with students who have difficulty learning the English language, and areas of struggle for their FGA students. Finally, our problem solvers shared insight as to other mentor programs that they have experienced,  what the initial components and infrastructure to starting a program looks like (management, roles, curriculum, and relative technology), foreseeable challenges, and organizations that would be potential partners in our initiative.

During our “Design Your Mentor Program” session, we discussed what the age group and grade levels for this program would be, how many hours a week each student would attend, duration of the program, group size versus one on one, responsibilities of the mentors and their qualifications, types of activities for the students, impact (language, social skills, and cultural literacy), and benefits.

Overall, our group feedback was unanimous: there is a need for a first generation American mentor program. Improved vocabulary and test scores through afterschool homework support, increased confidence through teamed mentorship, and parental engagement through weekly check-ins are all ideas and objectives that stemmed from our leadership team and participants. As this was the very first small group discussion for our initiative, we are looking forward to continuing the conversation and digging deeper with research this fall season. Ideally, our goal is to roll out a beta program by spring 2014 and implement a formal program by 2015.

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