RSMP Mentor Transportation Fund

Raised toward our $8,000 Goal
102 Donors
days left
Project ends on December 10, at 09:00 AM CST
Project Owners

What does your donation to the RSMP Mentor Transportation Fund accomplish?

What is the Refugee Student Mentor Program?

The Refugee Student Mentor Program owes its vision to Professor Jonathan Kaplan, who sought to connect the talents of C/DMES students with a local elementary school in severe need of speakers of Middle Eastern languages. In 2015, many Austin Independent School District campuses faced a sudden and large influx of non-English speaking Iraqi and Afghan refugee students, with limited resources to support these new arrivals academically or socially. Starting in earnest in spring, 2015, Dr. Kaplan and colleagues coordinated with an elementary school's administration to arrange the presence of UT graduate and undergraduate volunteers at the school as mentors, translators, and assistants to ESL and classroom teachers.

The program has grown from twelve student volunteers originally engaged at that first school to average 20-40 volunteers per semester. Our mentors have served Vietnamese, Arabic, Pashto, Dari, Spanish, Turkish, Kurdish, Nepali, Malayalam, Burmese, and French-speaking students at 43 different AISD elementary, middle and high schools as of October, 2021; the organization’s total contact list of past and present volunteers and those who have attended volunteer recruitment and orientation events presently numbers over 200 undergraduate and graduate students. 

In addition to establishing and hosting workshops on refugee student needs for AISD teachers and staff, the program has also worked to increase its integration with aligned entities both inside and outside of UT to better serve its target population.

What do our volunteers do?

The pandemic conditions since Spring 2020 have forced RSMP mentors to adapt their means of reaching AISD students each semester, but our core mission of aiding Austin's K-12 students has not changed. Volunteers typically work on site between 1-3 hours weekly, most often under the supervision of an assistant principal or guidance counselor identified as a contact by AISD. The volunteers’ tasks are as varied as the needs of the students they serve, but can largely be grouped into two areas: educational and social.

Educationally, UT volunteers assist students both in language learning and general subject areas, and may work as one-on-one tutors, small group leaders, or in-classroom aides.  

Socially, the volunteers act as mentors to help students adapt to new systems (e.g., how to navigate a school cafeteria), to interact positively with their classmates and teachers across language barriers, and to process and understand unfamiliar aspects of their lives in Austin.  

Both of these aspects to the volunteer work are critical to enabling and empowering refugee students to access the educational experience they deserve, and provides both tangible support and a friendly ear as students and their families establish themselves in a new community.

In addition to the services the program provides to Austin’s public school system, reports from volunteers clearly underscore the benefits of participation from a UT student perspective. The opportunities for growth and refinement in language ability are obvious, and the volunteer activities represent valuable pre-professional experience for those intending to work with migrant populations domestically or abroad.  Regardless of career trajectory, participation in the program has been described as personally rewarding and valuable to students who seek to be informed and socially aware citizens.

What will your donation do?

We are currently seeking funds to maintain our ability to aid AISD schools that are further from UT’s campus. Historically, most refugee families have moved further north and east after their first years in Austin, and as a result, move further from our volunteers. Many of our volunteers do not have an efficient way to travel to further schools, potentially depriving a large number of AISD students of mentors.

At the end of each month, RSMP uses the money raised by this project to reimburse mentors who have used rideshares to reach their schools. Your donation is the key to this, allowing our volunteers to travel to schools all over Austin. These funds will not only allow us to transport more of our volunteers to schools in need, they will also maximize the volunteers’ time with the students. At this stage, many of our volunteers use public transit to reach the schools, leaving one or two of their potential volunteer hours eaten by travel time. However, with direct transportation, the hour of travel to the school and back will become more time working with students.

By donating, you can contribute to helping our volunteers get from UT's campus to public schools across Austin, furthering the reach of the Refugee Student Mentor Program, and resources for AISD students.

Choose a giving level


One Round-Trip

Your donation of $25 will pay for one round-trip rideshare for our RSMP mentors.


Two Round-Trips

Your donation of $50 will fund two round-trips for our RSMP mentors.


One month of RSMP Round-Trips

A donation of $100 will fund an entire month of RSMP mentor travel.


Two Months of RSMP Round-Trips

A donation of $200 will fund round-trip rides for two months.


Fund rides all semester!

A donation of $500 will fund an entire semester of RSMP mentor rides to Austin public schools!


Sponsor an entire school year!

An entire year's worth of mentoring


4 Mentors for a Year!

A donation of $4,000 will send four mentors to schools for an entire year!

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