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In the Spring of 2016, Sabal Palm Elementary (Tallahassee, FL) released an announcement: "Bilingual Volunteer Tutors & Mentors Sought for Refugee Elementary Students". This bulletin caught the attention of founders Sammie Kunin and Liv McConnell and became their impetus to support the local migrant community. Liv and Sammie established a group of eight student volunteers at Florida State University to work with ELL students from the Democratic Republic of the Congo intending to solely focus on increasing their basic English literacy skills. What this group saw, however, was the development of dependable relationships, mentorships, and friendships with ELL students that immeasurably benefitted their transition into life in the United States.

 

Continuing their work in Fall of 2017, Liv and Sammie saw that resources allocated to ESOL education were overextended throughout Leon County Schools and instructors struggled to handle the influx of migrant and refugee students in the school system. Having a model in place at Sabal Palm, Liv and Sammie created a Registered Student Organization (RSO) at Florida State University (FSU) to expand in Leon County. Originally named Migrant and Refugee Education Alliance (MREA), the organization grew to include over 200 FSU student-tutors over its first two years as an RSO, supporting twenty K-12 schools and hundreds of local ELL students.

 

In schools K-12, Darasa continues to provide tutoring, companionship, and life-skills training. Darasa also participates in county-wide strategizing with DCF, IRC, and Leon County Schools to discuss how to build the program to ensure that all ELL students are supported inside and outside of the classroom. Our next endeavor is to operate as a non-profit so that we can scale our model to other universities and cities across the country. We hope to advance the foundational blocks necessary for the future success of migrant and refugee students arriving in the United States.

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