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West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center - Research and Development Intern


Experience Information

Employer: West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center
Job Title: Research and Development Intern
Major: International Relations
Received Credit?: Yes
Paid?: No

Description of the Organization

The West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center (WMRECC) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 that aims to provide support for refugee students. Serving Ottawa and Kent counties, WMRECC provides services for refugee parents, school administrators and refugee children. The services provided for children include after school tutoring through Project Faulu as well as peer support and school liaison services through the School Impact program. These services are all provided with the aim of easing a student's transition to school life in America and helping them succeed academically.

Description of the Tasks/Projects Completed

As a research and development intern, my main task was to research Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, Unaccompanied Alien Children, and the Cuban and Haitian refugee background. With my research, I created both power point presentations and general information worksheets on these communities. For my research I primarily utilized print and online sources, however, I also conducted in-person interviews with individuals working with or who are part of, the communities I was researching. Once my research was completed and reviewed by the internship coordinator, I presented my research during a professional development workshop with local school officials. In addition to research, I tutored refugee youth and conducted public relations work for the center.

Skills/Knowledge Gained Through The Experience

Through this experience, I learned more about the various refugee communities in West Michigan as well as the struggles refugee students face in the school environment. Being exposed to various cultures and individuals knowledgeable about these cultures, certainly improved my cultural literacy. For example, I learned that for Burmese people, the actions for "no" and "yes" are reverse; when saying yes, individuals will shake their heads and when saying no, they will nod. Furthermore, I improved my public speaking skills and learned to work on self-directed projects at my own pace. My skills working with the Google Drive platform improved, as I am now able to create forms and input data into these forms. I also learned about the methods through which a nonprofit operates and the strong connection that WMRECC maintains not only with educators, but with refugee agencies themselves.

Favorite Part of the Experience

My favorite part of my internship experience has been interacting with the other interns and volunteers as well as the refugee children. I learned a lot from each of them and we work well as a team. Whenever anyone faced issues when tutoring a certain student, we helped and counseled each other in a professional manner. Furthermore, the WMRECC staff are easy to get along with and very welcoming. While they come and go from the office due to their busy schedules, having everyone together often leads to interesting and educational conversations. This great group dynamic translates into a great dynamic when working with the children themselves. Once they get to know you, the children treat you more as a peer rather than a tutor. This is turn makes it easier to tutor a student as well as understand their struggles and provide assistance.

How the Experience Influenced Future Career Goals

Before beginning this internship, I knew that I wanted to work with migrant communities in some way. However, I was unsure as to whether I wanted to work in political campaigning, law or community outreach. My exposure to the various aspects of nonprofit work through this internship has helped me determine that I want to focus on community awareness and engagement. I aim to work in a position that allows me to promote cultural diversity while at the same time, assisting migrant communities with their adjustment to life in a new country.

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of GVSU.

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