Yenling Yang

Exploring Heart 

Exploring Heart is a new venture that encourages immigrant adults and youth to be active individuals playing active roles within their communities. Ideally, the program would consist of a group of volunteer mentors who see the importance of being not only physically healthy, but also intellectually curious. These mentors would aspire to inspire their mentees to take the lead in achieving a lifestyle that is stimulating, exciting, and challenging on a variety of different levels.
Since this is a new venture, research needs to be done to see if there are current programs in place that have similar models or have models that can be modified to be applicable to this idea. Sample programs that can be reviewed could be after-school programs, summer programs, and other tutoring or mentoring programs and specific examples of organizations could be Generation Citizen and D'abate Elementary School. Evaluation of this goal will be assessed by the formation of a rough idea of a model for this venture to follow.

Furthermore, I would like to see a program like this manifest in smaller urban or suburban areas where there are significant populations of refugees and new immigrants, but because the area is not densely populated with minority groups, these populations are not getting the services they need. In addition, it would also be best if the location has some community organizations that are dedicated to serving new immigrant populations. As a fledgling venture, the best way to introduce this idea would be through an established organization that already has the trust of community members. I currently have my eye on Lexington, KY and therefore, this grant will be used to fly to Lexington to meet with potential community partners, such as at the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University, and to intern at the Kentucky Refugee Ministries during winter break. Through such meetings and exposure to community organizations, I can hopefully gain a better idea of the need that is present in Lexington as well as the potential interest that lies at these universities and community organizations. By meeting with these potential partners and through the mentorship that will receive at the Kentucky Refugee Ministries, I hope to be able to solidify a more concrete way of assessing what a potential partnership could look like. With the help of community members, evaluation of these goals will be assessed by an outline of next steps on how to move forward with this venture in the city of Lexington, Kentucky.


Explore Grant Report:

With the grant from the Brown Venture Launch Fund, many objectives were achieved last semester and over the winter break, including the completion of an internship with the Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM) in Lexington, Kentucky. KRM is the only resettlement agency within Lexington and serves thousands of Iraqi, Congolese, Bhutanese, and Cuban refugees. Despite having a small staff count of 20 members, the organization provides a myriad of services from ESL lessons to job acquisition classes to legal consultations. In between these services, there are sewing classes, primarily targeted at women, and refugee focus groups at a local high school in which members of the community can get together to share their experiences. The support and dedication from the staff manifests every day: case workers are constantly driving clients to health appointments; they meet new arrivals at the airport and sometimes, they act as babysitters for children whose parents are sitting in classes at the office. I’ve never seen more dedicated individuals.  

However, even with their incredible progress and efficiency, there are still gaps that don’t seem to have been filled, particularly for youth. Perhaps, it’s due to a lack of resources. Perhaps, it’s due to a lack of time. Nevertheless, I observed that the one-on-one in-home tutoring program was quite small, consisting of only about 20 volunteers who meet with a refugee family once a week. I didn’t ask how many families were signed up to have a tutor, but I can’t imagine it being many, considering the small number of tutors. In addition, KRM didn’t seem to have many social services for youth. KRM has a youth programs coordinator, but perhaps due to the short duration that I was interning (2 weeks), I didn’t get to see much, especially since kids had already gone back to school. When I inquired one of the caseworkers about what I had observed, she agreed: KRM doesn’t focus on social services – after all, it’s a resettlement agency, not a youth development organization. She also mentioned that there is another after-school and summer program called FACE Time in Lexington that provides similar activities and through them, the gap may be filled.

With KRM being such a prominent organization in the lives of many refugees in Lexington, a supplemental program that caseworkers could refer refugee children to for mentoring, tutoring, and social enrichment would be exponential in ameliorating the resettlement process and therefore could make Exploring Heart a suitable program to bring into reality! However, with this new knowledge of FACE Time, it’s imperative to figure out exactly what services they provide in order to figure out what role Exploring Heart could take in the Lexingtonian community, if one at all. I shall be volunteering with FACE Time this summer in order to better understand the program. Let’s see what Lexington has to offer!