By Emily Gross, Senior Manager of Program Development and Outreach
Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest! LSS-SW gained widespread recognition in 2020 for its innovative Refugee Youth Mentor Program (RYMP). With offices in Phoenix and Tucson, LSS-SW offers robust services for refugees settling in Arizona. RYMP is unique in its focus on the personal and professional development of young people under the age of 25, many of whom are in the U.S. by themselves. The premise is that by pairing young refugees with a mentor to meet one or more self-defined goals, such as learning about a particular line of work or mastering a new skill, LSS-SW helps young refugees grow confident and feel more connected to their community.
In making direct, one-on-one matches, RYMP coordinators ensure each young person gets strong commitment from their mentor. LSS-SW currently has 70 young people paired in their program and encourages connections to continue even after the mentorship officially ends. The program also continues with proper safety protocols in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This September, RYMP mentor Erica Prather and her mentee Nazaneen visited the Tucson Museum of Art, snapping the above photo in one of the exhibits. Nazaneen resettled in southern Arizona after fleeing Afghanistan, and Erica is helping her meet goals to be more involved in the Tucson art community and improve her English. Erica has also been helping Nazaneen learn to drive, something Nazaneen would not have had the opportunity to do in Afghanistan.
We are so proud of all of the work Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest is doing to help refugees feel welcome and engaged!