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This High School Program Is Giving Refugee Students a Leg Up

School as sanctuary.

Refugee Transitions leaders, from left: Fernando Ramirez, Haibin Yu, Jay Yu, Shuqi Yang, Javier Li, Neesha Magar, and Cheuk Ki Chan.


For some students, the start of a new school year doesn’t just mean shopping for supplies and loading up on extracurriculars. It means starting over in a brand-new country—and one whose president has been anything but welcoming to them and their families.

That’s certainly the case for the students in the Refugee Transitions Youth Leader Program at International High School in San Francisco, where the entire student body has been in the United States for less than four years, and many are getting their first real shot in a stable classroom setting. The program pairs new student arrivals with their more established peers for tutoring, language assistance, and cultural exchanges. Last year, the program expanded from two schools, San Francisco and Oakland's International High Schools, to include a third, Fremont High. Amazingly, 95 percent of Refugee Transitions’ youth leaders go on to college. Cheuk Ki Chan, 19, who immigrated from Hong Kong in 2015, intends to study art: “It can make people feel connected,” she says.  

Originally published in the September issue of
San Francisco

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