Making Future Bright for Refugees

School of Professional & Continuing Education (SPCE)

Connecting with the local community in impactful and accessible ways to inspire all involved is a core value of JMU’s School of Professional & Continuing Education (SPCE). We continually look for opportunities to serve members of the Harrisonburg community and the newly created Writing for the Future program, a partnership between SPCE, James Madison University College of Arts and Letters (CAL) and Church World Services (CWS), has been just that.

Harrisonburg is an official CWS refugee resettlement community and since 1988, has settled refugees and immigrants from more than 20 countries within a 100-mile radius of their office and provided them with the resources needed to form “a bridge from their former life in their home country to a new set of cultural, linguistic, and practical skills that will enable them to thrive in Harrisonburg” and become self-sufficient in a secure environment. As refugee families immigrate into our community to escape any number of unsafe or unhealthy situations within their own country, their children also settle into the local school system.

The Writing for the Future program helps prepare some of these students of high school age for their next stage in life after graduation. The program focuses on professional writing skills and includes particular emphasis on resume writing, cover letters, reading job postings, filling out applications and applying for college. The 16 participating students work one-on-one or in small groups with JMU undergrad students completing a Writing in the Community course. The high school students gain hard and soft skills as well as an opportunity to get a glimpse into the opportunities available to them within a college atmosphere. JMU students gain experience in their field and get a unique opportunity to sharpen their own skills by teaching those skills to others.

The partners benefit too. “The partnership formed between SPCE, CAL and CWS is a perfect example of what JMU means when they talk about community engagement. It’s a mutually beneficial and reciprocal partnership that benefits Harrisonburg High school students, JMU students and CWS. It’s exciting for SPCE because we get to expand our K-12 programming by offering a transformative educational experience,” said SPCE Assistant Dean Carol Fleming.

The current cohort of the Writing for the Future program will culminate in May with a mock job fair and tour of the JMU campus.

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Published: Friday, April 7, 2023

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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