Meet Marlena Springstubb! Marlena is a former Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring for Ascentria’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM)
program in Worcester, MA.
When Marlena came to Ascentria, her goal was to create a successful and sustainable volunteer mentoring program for refugee youth. During college, she spent time in Latin America volunteering with Amigas de las Americas, a volunteer-abroad program, where she helped create an education program for young children. This experience helped prepare her for her leadership role at Ascentria.
During her two years with Ascentria, Marlena developed PartnerUp! a one-on-one volunteer mentoring program that met twice a week for two hours and included facilitated conversation, academic support, workshops, and help with college preparation. Because she lived, worked, and studied in Worcester, she was able to connect the refugee youth to other community members. The students were able to participate in public speaking training, creative writing workshops, and a cooking class at Figs & Pigs Kitchen + Pantry in Worcester. They were also able to participate in fun experiences like Six Flags New England, Tower Hill Botanic Garden and Newport, Rhode Island.
Marlena thinks it takes a village to raise a child. “A huge benefit of PartnerUp! is that youth have a positive adult figure that is invested in them. Receiving support inside, as well as outside the home, is very important no matter who you are,” Marlena said.
“For refugee youth, it is critical. Mentors are a resource that refugee youth can go to with their questions and concerns. PartnerUp! is a place where refugee youth feel free to be themselves and have fun; no one feels judged and there’s no confusion about who anyone is – there is a mutual understanding that everyone in the program is in a similar situation.”
If you are thinking about becoming a mentor “You should be willing to step out of your comfort zone, be vulnerable and patient, and ready to invest your time and energy into a refugee youth’s life to make them feel seen, important, and loved. Mentoring a refugee youth is one way to be the positive change you wish to see in the world,” Marlena said.
Ailish Donovan, Senior Manager of the URM program thanks Marlena for all that she did to strengthen the mentoring program. Ailish commented, “Marlena was able to build great relationships with our URM youth, mentors and the Worcester community. Many of the youth and mentors stayed on this year and a number of the youth successfully started college, which is a testament to Marlena’s work.”