Summer is winding down, and the start of the school year is just around the corner! It can be an unsettling time for kids, especially if they are new — not only to the school — but to the country.

To help ease the transition for refugee children, Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas offered its third annual Refugee Youth Summer Program at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas. This year, 27 kids ranging in age from six to 14 participated in the weeklong program designed to familiarize students with the routines and rules of attending school in the United States.


Participants learned basic ESL (English as a Second Language) for the classroom and classroom expectations. They also participated in activities. “The lessons and efforts were aimed at making the children feel comfortable in a school setting while introducing them to basic classroom procedures before they enter school for the first time,” said Alex Kolker, one of the Program Coordinators.

The camp featured some special guests throughout the week. KCKPD gave a safety presentation, which provided the kids a greater understanding of what local police officers do for the community. Global FC came out and played soccer with the participants, running through relay and shooting drills with small groups. They were a big hit with the kids! Representatives from the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum also led a number of daily STEAM activities focused on critical thinking and personal growth and reflection.

Sixteen volunteers assisted with transportation, led games, taught ESL lessons, reviewed classroom rules, and helped distribute lunches and snacks. “The summer program would not have been possible without all of the volunteers’ work and dedication,” said Alex.



The free time spent with the children each morning was a favorite for all. “Volunteers and staff played games, colored with small groups, and really got to know the kids and make them comfortable with the staff and space,” she explained.

The program staff were especially thankful for the volunteers who had experience teaching ESL. “Many of the volunteers were ESL teachers, and taught us so much about classroom management and how to modify ESL lessons when something didn’t go as planned,” she said.

Staff and volunteers hope the camp experience will help ease some of the anxieties when that first day of school rolls around. Alex added, “We hope that the children who participated in the summer program feel oriented and ready to start school in the fall.”