The Refugee New Arrival School was developed in the late 1990’s to meet the needs of refugees living in Guilford County. Although there were many ESOL programs in Greensboro, employees at Lutheran Family Services and GTCC determined that there was a large segment of the refugee population unable to access the available ESOL programs. One major barrier for refugee families was that parents (especially mothers) could not attend classes due to their childcare responsibilities. The New Arrival School (NAS) was developed through a partnership with GTCC, Grace Community Church and the NC State Refugee Assistance Program (RAP) contract as a place where families could come together to learn English and participate in employment readiness and cultural orientation programs. The NAS operates five days a week for 3.25 hours per day. There are currently 7 adult classes and 2 early childhood transitional classes. In addition to our adult classes we also have employment readiness classes and cultural orientation seminars every week. GTCC provides the adult ESOL instructors, the church houses the program and NAI administrates the program including day to day operations, development and implementation of the cultural orientation and employment classes, enrollment of adult students and operation of the early childhood transitional classes.
In addition to the New Arrival School the English Language Training Program also includes a variety of classes in satellite locations around Greensboro. These classes include ESOL, cultural orientation, health literacy, employment classes and individual educational counseling. The importance of both the NAS and satellite classes cannot be over emphasized as learning English, employment skills and community orientation is vital to the success and self-sufficiency of refugees in Guilford County. Unlike other refugee programs that are only able to work with refugees for the first 5 years they have lived in the USA the English Language Training (ELT) program is able to work with students until they become a US Citizen. As such the ELT program is vitally important as it is often the only resource available to long term residents needing assistance and therefore has worked to develop courses that teach clients how to meet their employment and societal needs.
In the past the ELT program has striven to meet all the educational needs of clients in Guilford County but, being part of a larger organization, we were at times unable to develop new programs or apply for grants. Due to many circumstances including our current economic downturn the English Language Training program learned in early 2010 that significant changes to the refugee program in Guilford County were inevitable. Although changes can be painful they can also be a new beginning giving the Guilford County residents (refugee and non-refugee) the opportunity to look with ‘fresh eyes’ at the current program and determine how the current programs need to be changed to better meet current client needs.
After much prayer, deliberation and conversations with community partners one theme kept appearing, “Why don’t we start a non-profit that will have the flexibility to not only apply for grants but will be able to quickly develop and implement programs to meet the needs of refugees and immigrants?” As such, the idea of New Arrivals Institute was born. New Arrivals Institute is not only a resource for and educational service provider to refugees and immigrants, but also serves as a resource to the community at large about refugees and immigrants and their issues.