AmeriCorps VISTA Ensures Refugee Youth Graduate

By United Way of King County, on March 14, 2018 | In News

For Wadii Boughdir, education has always been at the center of civic engagement. Following revolution in his native Tunisia, he started a debate club to help students develop communication skills to overcome state censorship and create societal change. After immigrating to the United States, his resettlement experience and the shifting national environment around immigration compelled him to join AmeriCorps. As a VISTA placed by United Way at the International Rescue Committee, an agency that helps resettle refugees in King County, he worked on projects that improved the academic success of over 300 refugee youth in afterschool and summer programs.

“I joined the IRC so I could develop projects that help students access personalized quality education and connect more supporters and volunteers to these initiatives,” he said. He developed curriculum and engaged several hundred volunteers to improve after-school ESL, math support, and art and science programs. He forced improvements for a safe space supporting student social and emotional learning. He also helped IRC expand its activities in the Auburn School District by recruiting volunteers and developing outreach to engage 20 students in a mid-winter camp.

Wadii understands how critical it is to support refugee youth to make a successful transition into the US school system. Refugee youth face barriers that make school success difficult. He says, “Trauma affects their brain development, plus missing several years of schooling and going through different school systems with different languages.” He also knows how important school success is to refugee families: “Our clients invest all of their efforts, their long journeys to safety, and their low paid jobs in the potential of their kids’ future.”

His inspiration? His students. Every day he has the opportunity to help develop their skills and provide a platform to explore their potential. “They are resilient, joyful, and full of potential. They come to the U.S. not knowing the language, scared of the unknown, and unaware of their new reality. Witnessing the smiles, confidence, and the energy spark of a girl at the end of our summer school, after she’d spent the first three days scared and crying, I saw how IRC’s programs can help students gain confidence, acquire language skills and be motivated to pursue new challenges.”

While Wadii is inspired by IRC students and their families, we’re inspired by Wadii! His passion for education and helping students graduate is shared by many of the 35 VISTAs in his cohort who serve at a variety of agencies in King County. Together, we’re building a community where people have homes, students graduate, and families are financially stable, and we could not take this work to scale without our incredible AmeriCorps VISTA team! Thank you for your service!

Are you or someone you know looking to serve our community like Wadii? We’re currently recruiting AmeriCorps members. Join us and apply for open positions now!


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