Sarah Schafer is a student that finds herself in a position she never would have imagined just two years ago. She was part of a service learning class as part of her Learning Community requirement at Westminster, and while she enjoyed the community service she was doing and learned a great deal from it, it wasn’t necessarily a passion. “Peter Ingle told me about an afterschool mentoring opportunity down in South Salt Lake at Hser Ner Moo. He said they needed full time mentors and tutors and convinced me to join.”
As Dr. Ingle would go on to explain, refugees at the Hser Ner Moo center had had people enter and exit their lives for as long as they could remember, and now that they were in a new country and not knowing the language, having some stability and a mentor would be the first step to success in the United States. Sarah agreed, and that decision went on to change her life.
Now in her second full year, Sarah was one of the initial four Westminster volunteers at the center. In that time, she says the program’s growth and the progress of the students she has mentored is amazing. “The reading levels of the kids with a full time mentor jumped one or two grades. When you work with a group of students that speak more than thirty different languages and English is their second language, it’s a huge gain.”
Sarah wants to take what she has learned and gained and further develop them in grad school. She has applied for the Truman Fellowship, a scholarship that would pay for her to go to grad school anywhere. She says her passion is working with teenage refugees, a group that is most often left behind in the immersion into the United States. She wants to conduct research into advancing individual learning plans for refugee students to ensure they don’t age-out of a high school diploma, nor that they fail because of language barriers. She says she has seen a number of the students at Hser Ner Moo not graduate high school because they become too old and they simply don’t know the language well enough to pass courses. Sarah sees herself working internationally with refugees after grad school, and she says it’s all because of the experiences she has had at Hser Ner Moo. “These experiences have totally changed me. Being there, working with these refugee kids, has made me more critically minded and globally conscious.”
If you would like to be a mentor or contribute to the wonderful work being done in South Salt Lake at Hser Ner Moo, contact Julie Tille at email@example.com.