Campus support for refugees strong, but could still improve

This article is part of series highlighting synergy at Guilford and areas where we need to grow as an institution.

In the past month Guilford has received a lot of attention for its efforts to host a refugee family on campus. This is not new to Guilford: the College has been supporting refugees for many years.

“I volunteer at Elimu Empowerment Services,” said junior Zachary Lindsay. “We work with African refugees. We provide a stable support for the kids and parents so they can succeed in this community.”

While students like Lindsay work on closing the education gap, others bring fresh food to the different communities.

“We take food from the community garden (at Guilford) to the Glen Haven refugee community through the mobile market,” said senior Moira O’Neill. “Refugees are at a higher risk for food insecurity.”

The relationships built at the tutoring sites allow Guilfordians to understand other needs, such as food insecurity. We can see the synergy among many initiatives that seek to serve refugees in the greater community.

In contrast to the synergy found off campus, Guilford lacks effectiveness on campus when serving refugees.

In the past years, the number of refugees attending Guilford has increased. However, it is not because of a strategic plan to intentionally recruit refugee students. Many have arrived through informal networks built at tutoring sites such as Elimu and Glen Haven and the college access program Soy un Lider.

Those serving as informal recruiters for Guilford have little relationship with the Office of Admission. In the case of Soy un Lider, it was not until this academic year that Admissions offered help, ideas and intentional support to the conference.

Although the recent teamwork found with Soy un Lider is a step forward, there is more work needed for intentionally providing refugees access to higher education. There can be greater collaboration between tutoring sites such as Elimu and Glen Haven and the Admissions office to recruit refugees.

Collaboration aimed to better support those who enroll need to increase as well. Guilford needs to better understand the refugee experience on campus.

Currently, the school does not have an assigned person to help refugees transition into college. Most of those advising refugees are far from the realities of these students. A lot of the students have commitments to school and full time jobs, and on top of everything they have family responsibilities.

The amount of commitments often leads to poor performance in class, and at worst can even lead to mental and physical injuries.

For example, last year there were three car accidents involving refugee students which partly resulted from accumulated stress and tiredness. The school today does not have a plan in place to support refugee students and prevent such incidents.

The school can address this by seeking to learn the realities of refugees. One way those working with students can easily expose themselves is by visiting tutoring sites.

Guilford is ahead of other schools when serving refugees in the greater community, but we still to work on recruiting and serving those attending the school. The number of refugees attending Guilford will continue to increase, and to make a positive impact, we must be ready.

Next week’s article will look at how synergy at Guilford can be beneficial for everyone involved through a focus on experiential learning.