For many refugees seeking a path to citizenship in the United States, being proficient in English is a crucial first step according to Jackie McCafferty, director for the Temple University Center for American Language and Culture (TCALC), and Todd Miller, TCALC operations manager.
Last year, the center and its Intensive English Language Program received approval to offer full-tuition Refugee Support Scholarships to qualified refugees from Afghanistan.
These scholarships are part of the center’s commitment to providing a pathway to higher education to international students from marginalized and displaced communities.
“There is a high need for education for refugees, and we want to do as much as possible to work towards getting these potential students as independent as possible,” said Miller.
For all its students, TCALC provides non-native speakers with courses and outreach opportunities to learn and be immersed in American language and culture. The center’s various intensive programs prepare students for their desired path, whether it be employment, school, travel or life in the U.S.
Miller explained that when refugees come here they have full legal status through the U.S. State Department but they otherwise often arrive here with little to nothing. Therefore the first step is to help the State Department help fulfill their basic needs.
When the refugee students arrive, the State Department funds local resettlement agencies including the Nationalities Service Center, Bethany Christian Services, and HIAS Pennsylvania for a limited time to help meet the basic needs of the refugees. TCALC receives referrals from these agencies.
“About 5% of our youth arrive to our program with a high school diploma but not much English proficiency,” said Peter Gottemoller, Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program director for Bethany Christian Services. “Programs like Temple Center for American Language can help these students gain the proficiency to take the next step with college or vocational training,” he added.
TCALC provided one of the first of their scholarships to Bethany’s URM client, Maryam Mohibby, for six months when it first got approved in 2021. When she graduated from the program, her slot was offered to another student referred by HIAS Pennsylvania. “I was an actress in Afghanistan and I am going to continue that. When I arrived, I spoke very little English. I came here alone, and it was so important for me to be able to communicate, especially in daily speaking. The Center has been super supportive, helpful and understanding,” said Mohibby, who is now preparing to go to university.
Initially, TCALC designed its Refugee Support scholarships for Afghan refugees. After the Taliban took over Kabul in 2021, over 6 million Afghans fled the country (UNHCR.org).
Now, because of the war in Ukraine, many Ukrainian refugees are also in need. And in recognition of the world’s constantly shifting critical needs, the full-tuition scholarships are being offered to refugees in need unrelated to one specific location.
Eligibility requirements include a high school diploma and a referral by one of TCALC’s community partners listed above. For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Above Image: Maryam Mohibby, one of TCALC’s Refugee Support Scholarship winners pictured in front of Charles Library, her favorite place on Temple’s campus.
By Jadyn Amelia Howard, communications intern, ’22-’23
Photo courtesy of Ivy Hoa Nguyen