SOWA grantees partner to empower families in and out of school  

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School’s Out Washington (SOWA), an intermediary youth development organization, supports direct service youth providers in many ways. One of SOWA’s primary programs is granting funds to providers across Washington State. Some funds are specifically issued to Washington’s Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, which contracts with SOWA to administer the Refugee School Impact Program (RSIP). There are two RSIP program goals: to ensure refugee students’ academic support and successful school integration and to strengthen the skills, knowledge, and competence of parents, schools, and community-based organizations to support refugee students. 

An organization can have the best intentions and the most robust youth programming, but this might not be enough to meet the needs of refugee youth in Washington. Youth benefit when their families are knowledgeable and engaged in their learning. This is why many RSIP grantees don’t only serve youth but their families as well. 

Parents participated in writing and drawing activities during SPS and Kandelia’s parent event. Photo taken with permission from Seattle Public Schools.

This support can take various forms, such as online language classes for caregivers or one-on-one support. In the case of Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and Kandelia, this was an afternoon Afghan parent event facilitated by Aziza Khurramy, SPS’ liaison for Afghan students and parents, along with Mahamoud Hussein Gayte, the Student and Family Advocate in SPS’ Multilingual Department. 

SPS, a previous RSIP grantee, handled the presentation. Aziza reviewed the history of SPS, information on an upcoming field trip, how to use online apps Schoology and The Source to monitor student progress and communicate with teachers, and a writing exercise. Kandelia, a current grantee, provided childcare for families, handed out bags of groceries, and facilitated the use of George Fleming Place as the event location. SPS and Kandelia had the same goal: to engage Afghan refugee families and to involve them in their children’s success. 

This writing and drawing activity asked parents to draw each family member and write any special traditions they celebrate. Used with permission from Seattle Public Schools.

Before the event began, Aziza spoke with each family in their native language and asked what they would want to see in the event. This gave parents a sense of involvement, a reason to invest in the program, and a sense of familiarity and ease when listening and speaking. Aziza facilitated a 45-minute creative activity, which allowed parents to share their hopes, dreams, and family traditions and why they matter to them. 

Childcare meant parents could fully focus on the activity without worrying about where their children were. The bags of groceries meant the parents were taken care of, even after they left the space. No matter where you looked, SPS and Kandelia carefully tailored the event to place these Afghan refugee parents at the center. 

This partnership with families is only just beginning. “Our event at George Fleming Place and our other planned events for the future are good examples of how we are combining resources to welcome the Afghan community to Seattle Public Schools,” shared Mahamoud.  

Azia said feedback on the event was positive, and parents hope to see similar events that cover topics like universities and teaching methods used in the educational system.