NicerFL is responding to policy and research while providing innovative and flexible services and programming that accommodate a wide range of integration experiences for the whole newcomer family. We do not employ a “one-size-fits-all approach”, and we follow the newly-recommended approach of English Plus Integration and “conversation groups, coaching sessions, and support in addressing integration challenges on a flexible basis.” (MPI, 2023).
- Our New Immigrant and Refugee Support Groups Initiative, currently has 4 teams of volunteer tutors/mentors who meet individually or in small groups with the newcomers in 4 locations in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Sarasota counties. We group students by language level to provide in-person English language communication practice with life skills and cultural integration focus, mentoring, community and family resources, well-being art projects for new immigrant adults and youth, career coaching, citizenship preparation, and academic tutoring for new immigrant kids. The New immigrant and Refugee Support Teams of tutors/mentors utilize our NicerFL Newcomer Resource Guides to assist newcomer individuals and families as needed with community resources such as healthcare, food banks, career orientation and referrals to workforce development agencies, referrals to community services available to them, help with navigating the institutions and systems, help communicating with schools and counselors, and any other services and resources as needed.
- We will also continue to offer 3 online English classes at 3 levels to newcomers who need additional English language training. Two of the classes are taught by refugees who not only teach English to their peers, but also provide integration support and resources. We currently contract 2 recent refugees as online support team leaders/instructors for our online English Beginners Level 1 and 2 groups. They are experienced English teachers, but also recent refugees, so they are able to connect, mentor, and support their peers. We offer these 2 refugee peer leaders an opportunity to be paid for their professional skills as language instructors, gain experience they can include in their resumes, but also be a resource and an example of success for their peers. Unpaid volunteers join them as co-tutors as part of the support teams, many immigrants themselves.
- To fully meet the needs of every newcomer immigrant and refugee who contacts us, we also offer Online Individual Tutoring for new immigrant youth and adults and Online English Conversation and Support Groups. Many of our students attend both the in-person and online programs in a hybrid format. Tutors utilize the materials listed in the NicerFL English Life Skills and Cultural Integration Curriculum Guide.
- Our Newcomer Youth Program serves refugee and new immigrant children ages 4-18 in-person and online. New immigrant and refugee children currently receive academic and English tutoring from trained volunteers utilizing Lakeshore Learning games, homework materials provided by district teachers, and the Starfall and GetEpic.com app. We engage young kids with very little English vocabulary in games of charade, memory matching, and Eye-Spy.
- College-age immigrant youth receive college counseling from our tutor/mentors and go on field trips to learn about entrance requirements, program options, financial aid and college life.
- We offer several Cross-cultural Well-being Projects to new immigrant kids and adults such as the “Cross-cultural Arts and Music project” at the Barbara Ponce Library twice a month and Playback Theatre “Here We Are” in Sarasota. We want to expand our well-being programs because refugees and other new immigrants face many difficulties in their transitions and health and wellness are an important part of achieving self-sufficiency. We will look for local partnerships to offer support with self-care, dietary needs, nutrition and refer the newcomers to community providers that are professionally able to address newcomers’ identified needs of vulnerabilities.
Individual Mentoring for Families and Community Resources
The volunteers in the NicerFL New Immigrant and Refugee Support Groups are also mentors who assist new immigrants with family and community resources. Based on each student’s goals, tutors can refer newcomers to community resources, advocate for immigrant students and provide social-emotional support. This year, we will train the NicerFL support teams to raise funds to assist the families with school and household supplies and other specific needs. We will provide interpreters and cultural training from older refugees to support the work of our volunteers. We will continue to organize in-person at the center and also online workshops on issues of immigration, employment, and other integration issues as requested by our students and we will invite more community speakers from the city departments, workforce preparation institutions, employers and other community partners who can provide important information to our immigrant students to ease their transitions and ensure their personal and professional success.
In 2022, 104 local resident volunteers of various ages and backgrounds delivered a total of 3714 hours of service to 312 adult new immigrants and refugees, in both our in-person and online programs. 69 children of new immigrants and refugees received a total of 1224 hours of academic and English tutoring.
We expect to support in 2023 the integration needs of 320 more newcomer immigrants in the Tampa Bay area, Sarasota and North Port. We currently meet at 4 Locations: Barbara Ponce Library in Pinellas Park, USF Tampa, First Church of Sarasota, and public libraries in North Port.