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The mission of GIL is to provide appropriate educational options for refugee and immigrant youth to complete high school and earn a diploma in an atmosphere of peace, respect encouragement and inspiration.
Many refugee youth who come to Lansing arrive in their late teenage years and they most often do not have enough time to earn all of the credits needed to graduate, often regardless of educational history or even English language fluency (although these are additional challenges to many refugee youth). To earn a high school diploma in Michigan students need to earn at least 48 academic credits, usually 12 credits per year or 6 credits per semester. Refugees who arrive at the age of 16 or above do not have enough time to earn these credits. English as a Second Language (ESL) classes do not count towards their academic requirements. Students are forced to leave public school at the age of 20, with or without a diploma.
The GIL founders saw first-hand the negative impact of the lack of graduation possibilities on the individual students and forecasted the overall negative impact on the struggling Lansing economy. The GIL is the only organization of its kind in this area and the only viable access these students have to obtain diplomas. Although some GED programs exist, the GED tests tend to be insurmountable for English Language Learners (ELL). The GIL classrooms offer a positive educational environment where English can be practiced and learned while the other academic subject areas are mastered.
The GIL takes refugee students after they have "aged-out" of high school and enrolls them in an accredited correspondence course, where they receive a diploma from James Madison High School (http://www.ashworthcollege.edu/programs/high-school/general-online/). Volunteer teachers and tutors help students with English and cultural comprehension to understand and accomplish the course work. The two primary supervisory teachers have life-time teaching certificates in the state of Michigan and the Director (also a volunteer) is a certified educational administrator with K-12 Michigan Teaching Certification.The GIL’s overall purpose is to allow as many people as possible the opportunity to work for and achieve a high school diploma. With recent educational changes such as "No child left behind" and the new Michigan Merit Curriculum, and the new refugee populations arriving with less education and less English, high school graduations of refugees are becoming more infrequent. While students can attend high school in Michigan until age 20, newly arrived refugees are usually unable to earn enough credits for a high school diploma by the time they "age out." In the current economy, particularly in Michigan, it is nearly impossible to get any kind of job without a high school diploma.
- Paula Frantz
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