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Western Kentucky University launches Resilient Refugee Program to support displaced students

Aerial view of the Western Kentucky University campus.

Western Kentucky University is reaching out to Kentucky’s growing refugee population with additional services for displaced students.

The school’s Resilient Refugee Program aims to build on Bowling Green’s status as a refugee resettlement city by increasing the support network for refugees hoping to earn a degree. The initiative was created after the arrival of refugees in Bowling Green from Afghanistan and the December 2021 tornado outbreak, events WKU officials said put a college education even further out of reach for the refugee population.

The program assists refugees with their initial applications to WKU before transitioning to academic and social support while enrolled. Services include English language instruction, peer tutoring, and help adapting to academic life in the United States.

The Resilient Refugee Program was awarded a grant from the National Association of System Heads, or NASH, to kick off its work. NASH is a nationwide organization consisting of higher education systems, including the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. NASH’s Catalyst Fund honored WKU’s refugee program due to its potential for success and replication at other institutions, according to NASH administrator Nancy Zimpher.

“Its impact will be far reaching but the concept is simple: through pooled philanthropic support, NASH is recognizing and incentivizing the development of systems’ big ideas that, once proven to work, have the potential to be scaled not only within systems but at peer systems across the country,” Zimpher said in a statement.

As part of the funding award, WKU will host the “Every Campus a Refuge” training in April for higher education administrators throughout the nation to learn about WKU’s refugee education efforts.

WKU’s Resilient Refugee Program is the first of its kind in Kentucky.
Copyright 2023 WKU Public Radio. To see more, visit WKU Public Radio.

Dalton York

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