During a recent Teen Tapestry session about home, Amina showed the class a sketch of the tent that had been her family’s home during their refugee years in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. “I was a refugee too, and that’s not what my home looked like,” countered Constance, who arrived as a refugee from South Sudan. For the fourteen students representing five countries in our first Teen Tapestry class, the opening session reflecting on the idea of home led to an enlightening conversation in which they realized that even though they were all former refugees, their lives and stories represent only a small glimpse of what it means to be a refugee.
Since it was launched, the Tapestry Project has brought together recently arrived refugees and community partners, helping bridge the gaps and providing education on vital topics like public safety, health care, and transportation. Up until now, the course has been offered only to adults, but the MCC Refugee Services staff saw an opportunity to broaden this opportunity to teens in Mankato.
East High School of Mankato was eager to partner with us to offer Tapestry to immigrant and refugee students during their regular English learners class time, meaning that it would be completely accessible to them. Beginning this fall, we have had several weekly two-hour sessions to bring the content of Tapestry to teenagers in an interactive and engaging format. The students identified topics they wanted to learn about and voted on which subjects would be covered over the course of the semester. MCC Refugee Services staff reached out to partners to help us bring experts into the classroom to share this information with students, who also bring this information home to their parents and families.
They have discussed topics including college readiness, the importance of extracurricular activities and scholarships, transportation, and are planning to learn about setting up their own bank accounts and visiting the public safety center. For their college-readiness discussion, the school counselor visited their class to talk about college prep classes and other opportunities at their own school that many students were unaware of. On the public transportation day, they had their own bus tour, provided by the former Chief of Police of North Mankato, who had previously been involved with the Tapestry Project. It’s been so encouraging to see community partners from the former police chief to banking community members eagerly step up to share their time and knowledge with the students in Teen Tapestry.
After the session draws to a close, MCC staff member Nancy Altmann has plans to follow-up with these students through the rest of the school year, helping them keep track of the goals they have set for themselves and celebrate their achievements.