Stories of Impact

Youth Power: Meet the New BRYTE Board

by Daniel Wilhite ‘16
February 7, 2016

Daniel is a senior at Brown concentrating in History, Latin American Studies, and Urban Studies. Daniel has been a BRYTE tutor since his freshman year, a BRYTE Summer Camp counselor, and a BRYTE coordinator for the past two semesters.

Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment (BRYTE) is a student-run program that pairs Brown students with refugee students who have recently resettled to Providence from South America, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. BRYTE tutors work one-on-one with their students in their students’ homes for at least a year (but often up to four) on literacy, math, and other subjects, developing strong and reciprocal relationships with their tutees.

“So what should we include in our constitution?”

It was a chilly Sunday afternoon in the conference room of New Dorm. After many rounds of icebreakers, leadership development activities, Oreos, and Meghan Trainor jam sessions, Ayda, Arfa, Chrison, and Mechack—the founding members of BRYTE’s student advisory board—began to discuss what their purpose, roles, and responsibilities should be.  

The board, which began this November, is designed to acknowledge the incredible student leaders that already exist in the BRYTE community and provide them with a space to develop their leadership skills. At the same time, it reshapes BRYTE’s institutional model so that it is a more community-centered organization.  As Ricardo points out, “The charge of any community service organization is to be genuinely responsive to the needs of the communities they serve.  People come to the work with their own ideas and agendas, and often fail to take that crucial step back and listen.”

BRYTE has historically been a completely student-run program overseen by six Brown student coordinators.  However, we felt strongly that our refugee students should be more directly involved in the operation and direction of the organization. According to Vanessa, “I feel leaders in BRYTE have often struggled with making the right decision for the community without really asking the community.” 

What will their involvement exactly look like? It will be up to them to decide. They’re in charge.

Hi, my name is Arfa Denu Batay and I am…

Ethiopian

Eritrean

Kind

Helpful

Hardworking

Determined

Social

A role model

School / Year: Central High School / 9th grade

Where are you from?

I’m originally Eritrea but I moved to Ethiopia when I was six months so I’m more Ethiopian than I am Eritrean because I lived there for seven years, but then I moved to the United States and have been living here for eight years now.

How have you been involved with BRYTE?

I had a tutor named Yelena. She graduated last May and she was amazing. I had her since she was a freshman and I was in fifth grade and she helped me through middle school. I also went to BRYTE camp. There was like four of them, right? I went to all of them.

What sort of impact has BRYTE had on you?

Yelena was there for me when I needed some help. Most of the time my struggle was math. I was horrible at math, but I’m getting better at it. She taught me that if you keep practicing, you’ll get better at it. I learned that you just have to keep working hard.

What most excites you about BRYTE board?

What we’re going to do and what we’re going to change.

If you could change one thing about BRYTE what would it be? Are there parts of BRYTE that you hope stay the same?

I like BRYTE’s programs and I want to make sure that BRYTE Summer Camp stays really fun. The kids seem to have fun at BRYTE camp, but they also seem to get a little out of control sometimes so maybe more staff would be helpful.

Hi, my name is Mechak Niyomukiza and I am…

Burundian

Curious

Hardworking

Happy

Funny

Caring

Clever

Fast

School / Year: Times Squared Academy / 11th grade

Where are you from?

I’m Burundian, but I was born and raised in Tanzania. I came here on August 7th, 2008.

How have you been involved with BRYTE?

I had a tutor when I first came here. His name was David, but he graduated and I got two tutors after him. One was named Christopher the other was Julian. I also went to BRYTE summer camp when I turned 14, and I started working as a junior counselor. I did that for three years and this summer I became an assistant director for camp. I hope to one day become a director of camp.  BRYTE is a big part of my life and I value it a lot.

What sort of impact has BRYTE had on you you?

I learned a lot from BRYTE, especially from having relationships with college students. I get so much advice from so many different people. Having relationships with them contributes to my growth. Without BRYTE I would be a completely different person. Working with kids make me feel like a leader and outside of camp I feel like I’m representing BRYTE.

What most excites you about BRYTE board?

I think it’s a really cool idea. It gives me an opportunity to work even more closely with BRYTE during the year, not just during the summer. I’m really excited to see how it all works out and I think it’s going to be a fun learning experience.

If you could change one thing about BRYTE what would it be? Are there parts of BRYTE that you hope stay the same?

Based on my experience at summer camp, some of the people we partner with are not always on the same page, and if I could change one thing it would be to improve the relationships we have and make our partnerships better.

Hi, my name is Aida Salay and I am…

 

Always smiling

Smart

Kind

Helpful

Hardworking

And I want…

To go to URI

To be a social worker

School / Year: E-Cubed Academy / 10th grade

Where are you from?

I was born in Eritrea, but my parents moved to Ethiopia because of the war and we were there as refugees.

How have you been involved with BRYTE?

I have a tutor named Tara and I went to BRYTE camp since 2011, the first year that it happened. It was fun! I have also been a summer camp counselor and this year I participated in the BRYTE Leadership Institute.

What sort of impact has BRYTE had on you?

When I went to BRYTE camp I would see all these little kids and I would work with them and help them out.  It was fun and they would tell me their stories and I’m thinking like “wow, this is really cool.” It makes me want to be with them every day. I would love to be a tutor and a camp counselor when I go to college and maybe even a teacher one day.

What most excites you about BRYTE board?

Just the sound of it, everything about it really.  Also, when something has to do with BRYTE Camp, it makes me want to smile.

If you could change one thing about BRYTE what would it be? Are there parts of BRYTE that you hope stay the same?

To be honest, I like it the way that it is, but if something does come to my mind, I’ll share it with the group. I like the way that the camp schedule is organized and I hope it stays the same.

Hi, my name is Silikari Chrison Bigirimana and I am…

A singer

A dancer

Burundian

And I like…

The King of Pop

Chris Brown

Basketball

School / Year: Providence Career and Technical Academy / 10th grade

Where are you from?

My family is originally from Burundi and then they went to Tanzania.  We came to the U.S. on August 30th, 2007 so it’s been over eight years.

How have you been involved with BRYTE?

I’ve had three BRYTE tutors since I came to the U.S. My most recent tutor was Hunter, who I did academic work with, but who also helped record songs that I write. I also went to camp and I did the BRYTE Leadership Institute.

What sort of impact has BRYTE had on you?

When I first came here I didn’t know any English. My first tutor taught me English, and my English started getting better and better and better. I started reading books. There’s been times where I’ve felt like I can’t complete my work, but there’s always been a tutor who’s there for me who I can contact by phone or email.  I also feel more confident about the future. All of my tutors have been from a college and so I started to understand what college was, and this got me thinking more about college myself.

What most excites you about BRYTE board?

Helping out other students that are a part of BRYTE.

If you could change one thing about BRYTE what would it be? Are there parts of BRYTE that you hope stay the same?

It would be fun to have a BRYTE Christmas event.