Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth and Empowerment (FORGE)
Leadership, Organizational Strategy, Program Development
Fall 2012-Spring 2013: Vice-President
Fall 2013: Tutoring Chair
Spring 2014-Fall 2014: President
Spring 2015-Current: Advisor
FORGE is a student organization that volunteers weekly with the local resettled refugee population of Pittsburgh, and organizes advocacy and awareness events.
I've been in FORGE since my first semester freshman year, and have worked to grow the organization tremendously over the past 5 years. FORGE has been the most life-changing experience for me, working with my resettled Bhutanese/Nepali refugee family and developing strategy to see the organization evolve.
1. Developing Community Partnerships
I believe strongly in the power of collaboration. Throughout my leadership, I focused on creating community partnerships both with other student organizations and the local resettled refugee community.
Bhutanese/Nepali Cultural Night
Now an annual event, I started this event in 2013 to share the culture of Pittsburgh's largest resettled refugee population with our campus community. It stemmed from my desire to share the intimate experience I've gained through mentoring a resettled refugee family, and to humanize "refugees in Pittsburgh." Additionally, the Bhutanese/Nepali community really valued that there was a display of their culture at Carnegie Mellon University, which some view as a symbol of prestige.
- Worked with community liaisons to organize performances, speakers, promotion of the event to the community
- Coordinated the venue and event details (ie: tech, food, designed flyers, organized venue decorations, etc)
- Strategic direction for future iterations of the event (ie: shifting to a participatory cultural exchange night instead of performances)
2. FOunded an SAT/College Prep Program
In partnership with Pitt FORGE, I initiated an SAT/College Prep program for resettled refugees in high school juniors and seniors. As a result of my fieldwork for my honors thesis on resettled Bhutanese/Nepali refugee youth in Pittsburgh, I became deeply aware of the issues in resettled refugees' pathways to higher education. My urgency was cemented when I volunteered at the Pittsburgh Refugee Youth Summer Enrichment Academy. Along with a few fellow volunteers, we resolved to collaborate to create a weekly Saturday program that would support a cohort of refugee youth in studying for the SAT, applying to college, and applying for scholarships/financial aid.
The program launched in Fall of 2014, with a pilot cohort of 21 students and 21 volunteers.
- Initiated partnership with an ESL teacher at the high school where the majority of Pittsburgh's resettled refugees attend
- Outreach to the Bhutanese/Nepali community
- Wrote 2 grants to secure $3,000 for the program's development
- Strategic guidance to the program & mentored the student leaders coordinating the program
3. Re-structuring FORGE Leadership
Throughout my leadership, FORGE has grown from an organization of 15 volunteers to 58. Accordingly, we needed to re-structure our leadership team. Over the years I have developed roles for each executive board position, and expanded the executive board to 9 positions: President, Vice-President, Outreach Director, Tutoring Chair, SAT/College Prep Chair, SAT Attendance Coordinator, Events Chair, Design/PR Chair, and Secretary.
I moved into the Tutoring Chair position during my junior year specifically to re-define the role, which now involves being the point-person for in-home mentoring volunteers, leading the new member on-boarding process, and acting as a liaison between our student organization and our partnering resettlement agency.
As a Student Adviser, I am still deeply involved in the leadership team and developed our first leadership retreat this January.
- Re-defining each executive board role over 3 leadership transition cycles
- Mentoring younger student leaders
- Organizational strategy around our missions & goals, and implementing them on a weekly/semesterly basis
- Developed & ran a 3-hr leadership retreat involving re-envisioning our mission statement with affinity diagramming, breakout group brainstorming and strategizing on 4 organizational challenges from the previous year, and funneling ideas into action plans for this semester