Somali Youth at Risk Outreach Program (SYROP)


Somali Youth at Risk Outreach Program (SYROP) and After School Program (ASP) 
For a few years, the Somali Youth at Risk Outreach Program mission has offered direct services to Somali youth in Denver’s metropolitan area. These services include tutoring, mentoring and character-building activities. SYROP provides a place, the Somali Community Center, where youth can learn, spend time with peers, and receive help with their homework. Facing language, cultural and social challenges, these young people are greatly in need of support and assistance. 

Addressing these problems within a constructive environment, participating youth are more likely to succeed in school. Improving their grades is just one of our objectives. By offering an alternative environment and a healthy, safe place for kids, we want to prevent then from becoming victims of substance abuse and gang violence. Another objective is the reduction of absenteeism and, more positively, promoting success in school to forestall the option of dropping out.  

The program experienced a transformation beginning in January 2009 with the advent of more than a dozen community volunteers recruited by Sheila Kowal and Pam Hennessey. After school, twice weekly, a 10-15 elementary and middle school students have congregated at the Somali Community Center. In a two-hour program which is both free-flowing and structured, these children aged 5 to 13 visit first with each other and then, in a more serious vein, remove their homework assignments from backpacks and settle down to an hour or more with adult volunteers, often on a one-to-one basis. Since families may be recent arrivals to the U.S., adults at home may not yet be prepared to help the children with their studies.  

The Center offers a relaxed environment for students who have already spent much of the day in their respective Metro Denver schools. Whether their homework questions concern a math or science process or a term encountered in their reading, or if they want help with a practice list of spelling words for the upcoming bee, the children find willing volunteers to support their studies. Although the general goal is to raise a child’s academic level by a grade, we also stress the importance of completing assignments, understanding the work at hand and respecting the intent of others who are there to complete their own tasks. The children also enjoy doing art work, playing educational games and listening to the daily story time featuring award-winning books suitable for a broad range of ages and interests.  

We are very enthusiastic about our new ’09-’10 Partnership with the University of Denver’s Pioneer Leadership Program (PLP). Initiated by Dottie Lamm, this new venture brings together 08-09’s older volunteers with several underclassmen from DU who participate in our After School Program for the 09-10 academic year. This year, program management has also been assumed by PLP students as part of the Civic Engagement mandated during their sophomore year. 

An additional feature of the ASP benefits some of the parents of the young students; these refugee parents seek practice in English literacy. Certain volunteers will focus on their needs, while their children are receiving help with elementary and middle-school homework. The Center is a multi-generational place of learning for all, students and tutors alike.