Project RISE (Refugee & Immigrant Student Engagement) is a service-learning course that addresses issues in education concerning the school experiences of refugee and immigrant students. The program challenges the deficit model of thinking that often characterizes discourse about refugee and immigrant youth. By engaging with students from this vulnerable population, pre-service teachers will facilitate opportunities to unlock and showcase students’ considerable assets and potential while also expanding their understanding of students’ unique experiences.
Throughout the in-class component of this course, teacher candidates explore various topics surrounding the implications of migration/forced migration on the school experiences of refugee and immigrant students, the unique challenges these students may face in Canadian schools, and theoretical and research-based topics focusing on preparing pre-service teachers to work with and teach learners from newcomer backgrounds.
This course offers pre-service teachers the opportunity to employ a service-learning pedagogy approach to work closely with students from refugee and immigrant backgrounds in local elementary and secondary schools. Teacher candidates will adopt strategies to address the needs and challenges facing newcomer students and will have opportunities to work closely with learners from diverse backgrounds. Currently, Project RISE is operating in partnership with St. Joseph’s High School and Catholic Central High School.
As a major focus of the course, teacher candidates will be involved in community engagement experiences throughout the year. In-school engagements will have teacher candidates working to develop and facilitate student-centered programs that address the unique needs of learners from newcomer backgrounds. These programs may include peer-peer mentorship programs, in-school and after-school academic tutoring programs, arts-based student engagements and projects, university campus visits for secondary school students, and more. Teacher candidates will also be involved in a family-sponsorship program, whereby they will sponsor a local refugee family and collaborate in fundraising initiatives to provide support to the family. In addition, opportunities will be arranged to connect with community members from a diverse range of disciplines whose careers and research are centered around the needs and wellbeing of newcomer communities and youth.
Some important topics addressed in the course:
- Service-learning as a pedagogical approach
- Implementing Service-learning in the classroom
- Conceptualizing vulnerability and marginalization
- Children, vulnerabilities, and educational experiences (immigration, forced migration, conflict, limited access to education, Canadian school experiences, local and international perspectives)
- Refugees in Windsor/Essex County
- Role of schools and teachers in mitigating the challenges faced by immigrant/refugee students
- Teacher-Student Relationships
- Refugee students in Canadian schools
- Challenging and dismantling stereotypes and perceptions about refugees and immigrants
- Challenging our biases, positionality & privileges
Soma Stephens – B.Ed. 2022-23 Intermediate/Senior Division (History / Social Sciences)
“The RISE program has taught me the benefits and value of unity in community involvement. It provided a unique learning experience that allowed me to understand the power of building relationships. Throughout the program, I had the opportunity to build relationships with my peers, students, instructor, educators, school administrators, and community members. We worked as a class for several months to successfully execute our expertise in the RISE program, ensuring that the needs of all students were met at the secondary schools where we provided services. We also held bake sales and other event like a movie night as a class to raise funds to sponsor a local family. Additionally, I had the chance to work individually, in small groups, and as a class on in-class activities, fundraising, and experiential learning in the field. This program taught me how to apply theories to real-life experiences. Overall, this was one of the most impactful courses I have taken. It prepared me to work in diverse environments and collaborate with my peers to prioritize the needs of students. This course humbled my initial purpose for choosing teaching as a profession. Now, I can look at myself and think about and reflect on my own biases and perspectives to truly empathize with students and peers.”
Michael Hugall - B.Ed. 2022-23 Intermediate/Senior Division (Media Arts / English)
“We as teacher candidates in Windsor, Ontario are entering the profession at a very unique time. Not only are there an abundant of teaching opportunities in the Windsor-Essex-Leamington school boards, but these school boards are becoming more inclusive to refugee, immigrant, and new Canadian students. Within the RISE program, we have experienced crucial and necessary training to help us keep our methods up to date with this change. The RISE program invites teacher candidates of all societal backgrounds to share their experiences in a safe space. Through discussions on immigration, marginalization, and perspective, we as teacher candidates are coming away with the critical-thinking skills needed to run an inclusive classroom environment. We as human beings are different. Our sociopolitical communities embrace as a cultural mosaic that encompass all nations, faiths and creeds; so why should our school communities be any different?
In my own experience, I can honestly say that the RISE program has opened my eyes to the different challenges that Refugee, Immigrant and New Canadian students have faced in their efforts for a consistent or better opportunity in Canada. I believe that [our professor] has done an outstanding job in ensuring that future teachers have all of the right questions to critically ask ourselves when working with these marginalized students. We have developed ways to connect with these students, we have learned the critical thinking skills necessary for constructive self-reflection, and most importantly we have learned how to be kind-patient-and-empathetic to these students and their needs.
For anyone who has a passion for social justice, community building, and creating safe and inclusive spaces, I would be more than willing to recommend the RISE program as a way to build on your professional practice."
Margaret Mahu - B.Ed. 2022-23 Intermediate/Senior Division (Physical Education/Mathematics)
"During my second year in the Faculty of Education, I participated in a service-learning course called Project RISE. This course focused on working with refugees and newcomer students, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Throughout the year, our class partnered with two schools, St. Joseph's Catholic High School, and Catholic Central High School, that provided support and resources to these students. We could directly engage with and learn from the people we were helping and working with.
One of the things that stood out to me was the level of collaboration and mutual respect that existed between our group and the refugees and newcomer students we worked with. We were all learning from each other and working together to create a more inclusive and supportive community.
Through the service-learning course, I gained a deeper understanding of the challenges these communities face and the strengths and resilience they possess. I also developed a greater sense of empathy and compassion, and I was inspired by the incredible determination and perseverance demonstrated by the individuals we worked with. Throughout the course, we focused on theory and engagement. The theory work we did helped broaden my senses and helped me understand how to help these students in the classroom better. This course has allowed me to add various things to my teacher toolbox. Firstly, it has improved my cultural competency. We were exposed to various cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. This led to an increased understanding of cultural differences and the development of more inclusive teaching practices that celebrate diversity and promote equity. Further, I was able to develop more differentiated instruction strategies. Newcomer and refugee students often have unique learning needs and may require differentiated instruction to succeed in the classroom. Working with newcomers, I was forced to develop strategies that meet these diverse needs, which can improve my overall ability to differentiate instruction for all students.
Overall, Project RISE was a precious experience that taught me the importance of community engagement, cultural competency, and social justice. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it. I recommend this course to anyone looking to make a meaningful impact in their community while gaining valuable skills and insights."