The Community and School Navigation Project for Refugee Economic Well Being


The Community and School Navigation Project for Refugee Economic Well Being develops advancement pathways and economic mobility for the thousands of refugees and immigrants who arrive in mid-Missouri through ensuring connections between and among schools and social service agencies to support new arrivals.



City of Refuge (COR) has served the refugee, secondary migrant, and immigrant population of mid-Missouri for the past ten years. Our organization grew out of a community desire to solve the immense obstacles faced when resettling to the United States. COR’s model for care centers around Basic Need programs, PTSD/Trauma Counseling, and Professional Development. We use a need-based model, and deep community partnerships to (1) help immigrants and refugees recover and regain control of their lives; and (2) equip them with the resources and skills they need to navigate life, school, and achieve economic opportunity.


The heart of this project is rooted in belonging and aims to honor the unique challenges faced by the diverse populations in our state. City of Refuge, The University of Missouri, and Columbia Public Schools developed a partnership to launch the Refugee Community and School Navigation Project for Economic Well Being to bridge the gap between community resources and our diverse refugee population. Specifically, we recognize that many refugee families are unable to achieve their ambitions due to a lack of access to community resources and connections. This project creates two new roles and positions to address these issues, a Community Navigator and School Navigator to serve 50 family units and 200 individuals.



The Community Navigator’s primary role is to help refugee and immigrant families adjust to life in the U.S. and to act on issues related to economic mobility. Specifically, this includes the obstacles of the language barrier, lack of occupational opportunities, finance education and self-sufficiency, obtaining and maintaining employment, legal identification, access to healthcare, and job skills development. Our clients come from diverse cultures and religions, stemming from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, where other economic stability programs are unequipped to navigate. Through one-on-one Case Management and partnerships with over 50 local businesses, the CN will help refugees develop a career plan and set goals for how to achieve them. 


The School Navigator will partner with Columbia Public Schools and other Missouri school districts working with refugee and immigrant families. Their focus will be on helping families build strong relationships with teachers and school leaders. Refugee youth are often the first family members to make significant connections with the community through their schools. However, schools don’t always know how to best support them and their families toward independence. The SN will coordinate professional development training for school districts on the immigrant and refugee resettlement processes, cultural differences, and culturally-competent practices. They will also help families navigate school enrollment and common educational expectations (like parent-teacher conferences), and connect families with higher education professionals to support students with post-secondary education opportunities. Few refugees have access to college, yet higher educational attainment is critical to occupational/economic mobility and financial stability. The SN will provide vital support to ensure multiple pathways remain open for refugee children, thereby further supporting their families’ economic well-being.