Refugees recognized for their achievements
Students complete AJAPO's Camp to Campus program
Twenty-six young people July 14 completed the Camp to Campus Program sponsored by AJAPO, a refugee support agency in Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood.
The program aims to accompany refugee children on their path from the refugee camp of their birth to a college campus of their choice in the United States.
They were recognized for their achievements and advancements in science, the arts, public speaking, financial literacy, creative writing and critical thinking.
The first installment of the Camp to Campus Program was realized through AJAPO's Museum Project. On various Saturdays in the past four months, students experienced many of Pittsburgh's cultural institutions, including the National Aviary, Carnegie Science Center, River Quest Environmental Education Program, Andy Warhol Museum, Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, and the Sen. John Heinz History Center.
More than taking basic field trips, the students engaged in discussions with adult mentors, compared what they observed to their life experience, and were charged with managing and saving their own lunch money (financial literacy). At each meeting, a handful of students publicly reported back to the larger group on their experiences. The program strives to improve students' personal and academic development.
The organization is grateful for the support of many community partners. Financial support was given by McAuley Ministries, the grantmaking arm of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, and Highmark Blue Cross-Blue Shield.
Twelve members of Compass AmeriCorps gave of their time, talent and treasure to assist and accompany students on their acculturation activities. The AmeriCorps members served as college-educated young role models for the students.
"When encountering a student or an adult from a foreign country, one might assume that he or she is blessed with a broad perspective of the world. While this may be true for some, our students have a limited and often painful experience of a small number of places," said Dr. Yinka Aganga-Williams, AJAPO executive director.
"Most were born in a refugee camp, an area of just a few square miles, and have arrived to the United States only a few years ago," she said. "Due to the very limited resources, our students know only the inside of their family home, the inside of their school building, and the bus route between those two places. The Camp to Campus program offers our students a world without barriers, a world filled with possibilities."
During the July 14 program, board members, staff and other community volunteers were recognized for their many contributions.
AJAPO stands for Acculturation for Justice, Access and Peace Outreach. It is located in the former St. Benedict the Moor School building in Pittsburgh's Hill District, and is a community faith-based, non-profit organization.
To contact AJAPO, call 412-391-4985, or go to the organization's website: www.ajaporefugeeimmigrantservices.org.