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Let's Talk Human Rights

2021 Summer Fellowships: UD Students Experience Teaching With African Refugee Development Center

By Sierra Johnson '22, Elizabeth Kolb '23, Abigail Medler '22, & Katie Schreyer '22

As part of the summer fellowship program, four University of Dayton students, Katie, Abby, Sierra and Elizabeth, worked with the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) to teach English to African refugees in Isreal through an online program. Hear about their experiences:


When I first began my training to be a facilitator for the ARDC, one line in a teaching guide really stuck with me. It said to “respect the learners” because “you may be the only advocate they have in this big world”. I thought that must have been an exaggeration. I had already met so many great people working in the ARDC, and surely there were other volunteers and organizations working to help refugees in Israel. However, as I got to know my two students, Taban from South Sudan and Tadesse from Ethiopia, it dawned on me just how true that statement was, and just how much the ARDC does to support the refugee community in Israel. 

Throughout our lessons, my students opened up to me about just how little support they receive from the Israeli government, their university professors, and their employers, one of whom forced one of my students to work a double shift during our class time. I had taken for granted how lucky I am to have teachers who are concerned about my success, labor laws to protect my rights as a worker, a government that acknowledges my personhood and a safe environment in which I can live and learn. My students are two of the most incredible people I know. They are more determined than I will ever be and came to each class ready to learn and participate no matter how tired they were. Taban has dreams to work in government and advocate for sustainable development and economies and talked passionately about these issues any time they were brought up in class. Tadesse wants to get a university education in economics and works tirelessly to support his family back in his home country. Being able to work with them each week and help them achieve these goals was an honor, and I feel like I learned the most out of the three of us. Our world is big and our problems may seem daunting, but as long as we can advocate and care for at least one other person, I truly believe we can solve any issue.


Over the span of about three months, I worked closely with the ARDC to facilitate English advancement classes for four incredible students seeking asylum in Tel Aviv. This was an opportunity like I have never experienced and it was so eye-opening to see such strong, intelligent and hard-working individuals grow in their knowledge and understanding of the English language with my assistance. Realistically, they do not even need me. They are so exceedingly bright, and I honestly felt like I was learning more than they were at times. I am so grateful to have heard their stories and watched them flourish the way they did. The students in this program are faced daily with adversity that I cannot imagine, and in the face of it all, they still manage to make their education a priority and succeed at it. I am so lucky to have engaged in this experience and I would recommend it to anyone interested. 


Entering into the immersive internship experience with the ARDC has truly been life-changing. I was tasked with facilitating the newest level for six students twice a week titled “Academic Research”. Through the assistance of ARDC and Arizona State University (ASU) in providing wonderful content, I was able to tailor discussions about citations and research to the students’ interests. I found many of the students were vulnerable in various moments in sharing their experiences being asylum seekers in Israel. For instance, Bereket, a 22-year-old student from Ethiopia who fled to Israel, explained his feelings of discomfort and stress as he works 12-hour-shifts without status in Israel. He fled Ethiopia and witnessed the death of his brother firsthand. Similarly, Mulue, a 23-year-old student from Ethiopia shared the barriers of lacking status in Israel and its impacts on his ability to thrive as an asylum seeker. The work of ASU and the ARDC in providing education and support for students is a testament to the resilience of the students I worked with. I was able to connect with the students even over a Zoom screen. I witnessed their developments as students, writers, leaders and individuals. This opportunity connected me internationally to bright students striving for education no matter their circumstances and backgrounds. These students and experiences often made me emotional as the six students I worked with are very inquisitive about themselves and the world around them. Such an experience brings about a whirlwind of emotions knowing that you are in the passenger seat guiding dedicated students to seek the education they desire. 


Working with ARDC has really been a great privilege. There were about six students I met with twice a week to go over the English curriculum, provided by ASU. There were a few moments that caught me laughing, when my “students”, who are adults, would bring their kids on the call and make jokes. There was not a meeting that did not feel exciting and fun. Truly it is all because of the wonderful students, Bakir, Darma, Adam, Askalu, Neamat, and Mubarak. Darma wrote a brief reflection on his first 3 months with ARDC:

“Hello, everyone. My name's Darma Kule. I'm Sudanese Refugee in Israel. I live in Neve Yamen Kfar Sava, I would like to thank the ARDC program, and all teachers, also the teachers in ASU because they are supporting us, and encouraging us to keep on studying education for humanity. I would like to say that I'm so thankful for that!!! I can't find enough words to express it !! Thank you my lovely teacher Elizabeth. I really appreciate the way you teach, I really appreciate everything you have done for us. I'm really happy with my classmates and my teacher!!!!” 

I am incredibly grateful to be able to continue teaching and getting to know the same group of students for the next session of ARDC Learn English Now classes.


Sierra Johnson, Senior Criminal Justice Studies major with a Pre-Law concentration and minors in Race and Social Justice and Pre-Law. 

Elizabeth Kolb, Junior International Studies major with a concentration in Immigration and Economic Development as well as a TESOL certification. 

Abigail Medler, Senior Political Science major with a minor in Philosophy. 

Katie Schreyer, Senior History and Music major with a minor in Anthropology.

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