View From The Hill: Refugees studying at WKU receive assistance through Navigator program

Displaced students assisted by Navigators
Resilient Refugee Navigator program
Updated: Mar. 2, 2023 at 5:30 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - In this week’s View from the Hill, Amy Bingham has details on some well-timed legislation that is making it possible for some refugees to study at WKU.

“Studying is one of my dreams.”

“I’m paired with Issa, he’s from Congo and he’s studying business,” said Senior Emily Torres.

She is helping first-year student Issa Mtetebawa figure out life at an American university.

“I show them the resources that are available for them,” said Torres.

It’s a big departure for Issa who’s only been in the United States for a short time.

“In Africa, we are living in a community, so we have to share many things with others but in America, it’s like a private life,” said Mtetebawa.

Emily is among more than a dozen WKU students who’ve been trained in the Resilient Refugee Navigator program.

“We’ve learned about how the refugees come and what all they do to come to the United States,” said Torres.

“Students listen to other students,” said Associate Provost John Sunnygard.

He says hosting refugees is nothing new for the city of Bowling Green, it’s been doing that for four decades.

WKU had already formed a task force to identify barriers refugee students face when seeking higher education.

“It includes deans, it includes faculty members, it includes financial aid, the Registrar’s office, people from our office to identify where we had big holes and where we have big barriers,” said Sunnygard.

Coincidentally, last year the state legislature approved the 10 million Kentucky Innovative Scholarship Pilot program that took effect July 1.

“It covers everything. It covers accommodations, it covers tuition and food and living expenses,” said Sunnygard.

Allowing 19 students including Issa to realize their dream of pursuing their education after circumstances have led them far from home.

“Emily helping me so much at university. I know restaurants. I know where is library. I know where are some offices,” said Mtetebawa.

Sunnygard says an even broader university refugee training is scheduled to take place in April.

Kentucky ranks 5th in the country for refugee resettlement.