Summer Interns Learn Too

For the past four summers, PAIR has been engaging students through an educational and fun-filled summer program. We have always relied on skilled interns to help create and manage this program, and this year we had two wonderful interns join our team. Kadie Fields, a volunteer and senior from University of Houston, and Madhuri Venkateswar, a volunteer and sophomore from Rice University, comprised our exceptional duo. They were respectively funded by Harris County Community Youth Development and ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Programs. They worked together for 8 weeks to plan, run, and complete our very successful summer program. Below are their  reflections on their experiences. 


Kadie Fields - July 28, 2014

I have been involved with PAIR since my freshman year of college, almost two and a half years now. I am now a senior at the University of Houston and have been given the opportunity to be a Summer Program Manager. One might ask why I come back every semester, and I would say that I do it for the students. However, I feel that I get more out of it than I am able to give. This is some of what I got from my internship:

Joy
On every day of program I woke up excited to go to work. I bonded with the students and was filled with happiness any time I saw students having fun or interacting with counselors. The students have such a great sense of humor and unique personalities that had me laughing every day. I grew attached to these students in a short amount of time, and I was committed to giving them a great program.

Kadie monitoring a game.

Kadie monitoring a game.

Cultural exposure
It is a unique privilege for me to go to work and be surrounded by such a diverse group of people. The students in the summer program were born in 14 different countries and spoke 10 different languages. I got to be immersed in an environment where people from different cultural backgrounds were relating to each other and learning from each other.

Awareness
Throughout all of my experience with PAIR, my eyes have been opened to refugee resettlement in Houston, but this has been especially true during my internship. While planning and implementing a program designed to be beneficial to the students, the students were more than just statistics. I got to know them and see the ways I, as a member of the community, could be doing more. As a community, we have a responsibility to do what we can to help the new members. With PAIR, you can make an impact by just committing a few hours out of your week to volunteer.

Professional Experience
Lastly, I got invaluable professional experience from my internship. Working for a nonprofit offers many unique tasks that expanded my horizons. Probably the most beneficial would be the leadership experience that I got while managing volunteers and leading program.


Now that my internship is over, I will be volunteering as a mentor in a learners program. With this program, I volunteer one day a week for a few hours at Las Americas Middle School with junior high students. I will surely take this experience with me while volunteering and beyond.


Madhuri Venkateswar - July 28, 2014

There is a unique beauty in knowing what tomorrow is going to look like. There is a peace in the stability and I take the consistency for granted. I am privileged enough to be the queen of goals – 1 year, 5 year, 10 year – I have them all. But why? Why can I be certain that my world will stay the way it is and just allow me to move forward? Why do I assume that I will be given the same opportunities tomorrow that I had yesterday?

These were the questions I, Madhuri Venkateswar, started asking myself this summer when I served as one of the Summer Program Managers for PAIR. As a freshman last year at Rice University, I had volunteered with PAIR’s Westbury High School program, but I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew is that I wanted to experience the ins and outs of working for a nonprofit. I thought I deeply understood what the mission of the organization was, but I quickly realized that I had no idea how much my work with refugee youth would impact me.

It’s hard to imagine being plucked from what you know and being unceremoniously dumped into a foreign country. For most, if not all, it’s an extreme culture shock, and I don’t know if even I would survive it. But the students I worked with don’t just live. They thrive. English is just another language they pick up in addition to the two, three, or four they already speak. They are vibrant, curious, innovative, and witty people who welcome the chance to learn something new. 

Madhuri helps with Health & Fitness Pictionary

Madhuri helps with Health & Fitness Pictionary

As I worked with students for five weeks this summer, I know that they affected me far more than I helped them. For them, life had changed drastically but they never stopped to lament what had happened before. Through our myriad of activities – Career Day, Math Basketball, and Autobiography posters to name a few, and our variety of fieldtrips – museums, rollerblading, and even the Houston Police Academy – the students absorbed everything. I’ve never felt more proud to be a part of someone’s growth because I know it is long term.

My conception of what “future” is will never be the same and that is because I spent two months with some of the most inspirational people I will ever meet. PAIR accomplishes what no other organization can do – it celebrates the beautiful contribution all youth give our world. 

"Never Give Up, and Have Courage"

YMCA International Services invited graduating 8th graders to participate in an award contest for which they wrote brief essays describing the obstacles they faced when they came to the U.S. Below is the story of one of the nine winners who are in PAIR’s programs at Jane Long and Fondren Middle Schools.

Helena’s Story*

Where l am from is the place that will always remain in my heart. My name is Helena. My mom and dad passed through a lot of things that they will never forget. The pain they went through so we could be on this earth, when we were sick they were there for us. Our neighbors were so nice, great, friendly and always there for others. Mostly people die in Congo. There are always wars, they have a lot of enemies from some countries and great people in other countries. All because of that, I lost my dad. That is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

I overcame my obstacle by talking to my mother. She has told me a lot of words to make me feel great. She has told me to believe in myself and to never give up. Because of what she told me I feel grateful for everything and I thank God that I have the love of my mother. Every day I wake up in the morning and thank God for everything in this world. I go to church and praise Him and tell Him to protect my dad, all of my family and my friends.

What I learned from everything is that I want everyone who is passing through what I passed through to have courage and to never give up. I will always remember my mother’s words, “never give up and have courage to do what you want. Go to church and let your mother give you advice and most of all, have faith in yourself.”

GOD BLESS YOU.

Helena, pictured here with PAIR staff and other scholarship recipients. 

Helena, pictured here with PAIR staff and other scholarship recipients. 

 

*Names have been changed to protect students’ privacy.

The Most Important Obstacle that I have Overcome

YMCA International Services invited graduating 8th graders to participate in an award contest for which they wrote brief essays describing the obstacles they faced when they came to the U.S. Below is the story of the nine winners who are in PAIR’s programs at Jane Long and Fondren Middle Schools.

Priskila's Story*

Have you ever imagined about going to the country that you have no idea about, and going to spend your whole life in that country? Well, let me tell you about the most important obstacle that I have overcome while me and my family were coming to the U.S. First, let me tell you what happened while we were coming to the U.S. While we were leaving Nepal, it was the saddest moment we ever had, because we had to leave our family and come to the U.S. In that time we were very sad. We were crying and hugging goodbye.

Coming to the U.S. was very hard for us, because no one in my family speaks English, so we had to follow resettlement agents and do what they told us to do. I never thought that it would be that hard to come to the U.S. Then, when we got here we met my uncles, aunts and my grandmother at the airport. We were happy to see our relatives, but sad to leave our other relatives back in Nepal.

When we went to school to enroll, it was very difficult, because there were many people that I have never seen before. It was really hard to talk to others in English, especially when I needed help from my teachers. It was hard for me to do my homework, classwork, etc.

Finally what I did to overcome the obstacle was I started working hard. I started to try new things that helped me to speak English. For example, I started speaking to others even if I really did not know how to. I started being confident, and started making goals. I learned how to speak English from my friends and PAIR afterschool program. Even though moving to the U.S. was difficult, because of my hard work I learned how to speak English, started getting good grades, and made a lot of new friends.

Priskila, pictured here, enjoying recreational time at a PAIR Learners program.

Priskila, pictured here, enjoying recreational time at a PAIR Learners program.



*Names have been changed to protect students’ privacy.