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Tallahassee launches new youth literacy program for refugee children

Posted at 6:29 PM, Sep 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-02 18:29:53-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Learning a new language for anyone can be difficult.

It's a challenge refugee children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are experiencing right now in Tallahassee. That journey is now a little easier thanks to a new youth literacy program.

It's a cross cultural exchange between the Congolese / Swahili culture and American culture.

"We are trying to integrate the Congolese community into Tallahassee so we want them to bring positive aspects of their culture and their language into our culture and we want to show them all the positive things Americans have to offer," said Chase Beasley, Volunteer Coordinator for Youth Literacy Program.

The Tallahassee International Rescue Committee launched a new refugee literacy program for children in July. The refugees who speak Swahil come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many running from political conflicts.

The program helps students grades 6 -12. Jessica Utley mentors 12-year-old Maliki and 15-year-old Kashindi and says they have made great progress.

"I think their attitudes have changed the most. I think it was very hard and very intimidating for them at first," said Utley, Youth Refugee Mentor for IRC Program Tallahassee.

It's not just about teaching English. It's a about using those language skills to socialize, communicate with teachers and make friends, and even shop.

"As American citizens, English speaking people, we often forget that simple things like asking, can I have change, I need a large shirt, where do I get carrots? Those are things that need to be communicated," said Beasley. "Those can be learned in the classroom but also out in the real world."

Mentors say learning to speak English, for these children, is their key to unlocking the American Dream.

"I hope they really thrive in this American society. They are American citizens you have the right to pursue your happiness," said Utley.

You don't have to be a teacher or education major to volunteer. Anyone with the desire to help someone else learn English is a great fit for the program.

For more information, email