About Us

Our Mission

New American Scholars is committed to advancing the academic achievement of refugee students in New Hampshire by providing targeted support designed to close learning gaps and elevate students to grade-level proficiency. We aim to mitigate the educational disparity between refugee students and their American-born peers, empowering them to take agency of their learning and their lives.

Our Founder

“Refugees are part of the fabric of our state. They work in our businesses and support our organizations. Through the sharing of their talents, skills, cultures and customs, they help make our state strong and vibrant”

- Riyah S. Patel

     Founder & President, Student

Riyah Patel: Pioneering a New Chapter in Educational Equality

In a world radically altered by the Covid-19 pandemic, education faced an existential crisis. With schools scrambling to adapt, marginalized communities like refugees found themselves at an even greater disadvantage. It was in this landscape of uncertainty that Riyah Patel took a stand, founding New American  Scholars to be a guiding light for refugee students in New Hampshire.

The Spark That Ignited Change 

During the pandemic, when schools closed their doors and classrooms went silent, Riyah found herself wrestling with a sense of isolation and disconnectedness, cut off from her teachers and classmates. It was a time when loneliness felt like a constant companion. Her mother, a new American who had navigated her own set of struggles, shared with Riyah her experiences of isolation and difficulty when she first came to the U.S. This intimate revelation became the spark that ignited Riyah's awareness. She suddenly saw not only her mother’s struggles reflected in the current crisis but also understood the monumental barriers that refugee children in her hometown must be facing.  Armed with this empathy and understanding, Riyah knew she couldn't stand idly by as the educational divide widened in the wake of the pandemic,  disproportionately impacting marginalized communities like refugees.

Humble Beginnings, Widespread Impact

Riyah’s initial venture was seemingly modest: tutoring 11 students at a local library in Concord during the summer. But news of her initiative spread like wildfire among refugee families, with inquiries flooding local resettlement agencies about how to join her program. Riyah quickly realized she had unearthed an urgent, unmet need.

The Formation of New American Scholars

By the fall of 2021, Riyah's vision culminated in the creation of New American Scholars.  What began as a solo effort has since blossomed into a thriving organization.  Currently, New American Scholars reaches over 240 students across the state through an enriching blend of in-person and continuous online programming.  Bolstered by a dedicated team of 56 tutors and strategic partnerships with state-wide nonprofits and educational institutions, the organization is rewriting the narrative on educational equity. 

The Path Forward

Riyah views New American Scholars not as an endpoint but as a foundational step in a broader vision. Faced with a growing demand for the services her organization provides, her commitment to serving every refugee student remains unyielding. “When we lift up those who are struggling the most, we're not just doing good—we're making our entire community stronger. It's not about charity; it's about giving everyone a fair shot. Because the truth is, when one of us succeeds, we all do. So let's make sure every kid, no matter where they come from, has the chance to succeed. That's how we build a better future—for all of us.”

Riyah in her own words

New American Scholars: Fostering Community and Academic Growth in New Hampshire

A Message from Riyah Patel

In a world where global turbulence has become the norm, from political unrest to environmental crises, and most recently, a devastating pandemic, the search for a stable life has led many to leave their homeland behind. In New Hampshire, a state known for its picturesque landscapes and community-oriented lifestyle, over 7,500 refugees have found a new place to call home. They come from various corners of the globe, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, Bhutan, Nepal, and most recently, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

The Challenges of Integration

New Hampshire, traditionally one of the most homogenous states in the U.S., is slowly becoming more diverse, its demographics shifting by 10% over the last three decades. Cities like Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and communities along the Seacoast have become primary resettlement locations for these new American families.

However, while the state offers new beginnings, it also presents a set of new challenges, especially for refugee children. Our schools, the gateways to integration and opportunity, unfortunately sometimes exacerbate the struggle. From navigating a new educational system and mastering a new language to confronting discrimination, xenophobia, and bullying—refugee students face an uphill battle. Add to this list the challenges of adjusting to new peer groups, unfamiliar cultural norms, and differing teaching styles, and it becomes clear why so many of these children find themselves at an educational disadvantage.

Pandemic’s Harsh Ripple Effect

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt an additional blow to the already precarious situation. According to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “the Nation’s Report Card”, the pandemic erased two decades of progress in Math and Reading. This educational slide was most significant among black and historically disadvantaged students. For refugees, the challenges of acculturation are compounded by these academic setbacks, setting them even further behind.

Our Purpose

In this setting, New American Scholars aims to be more than just a beacon; we aim to be a bridge. Our purpose is to provide much-needed academic assistance, social support, and leadership development to help refugee children transition into their new community and educational environment. We recognize that the path to true integration goes beyond the classroom—it involves forging connections, building self-confidence, and providing opportunities for these children to take agency over their learning and lives.

Making a Difference, One Student at a Time

To counter these disparities, our personalized programs focus on reading, writing, language arts, math, and science, delivered both in-person and virtually. We believe in mentorship and guidance as essential elements to help these students feel at home in their new homeland.

And it’s not just about academic achievement. Our programs aim to make these students feel a part of the broader New Hampshire community. When a student can read proficiently, communicate effectively, and build relationships freely, they are not just better students; they are empowered individuals who can contribute positively to society.

A Call to Action

The Department of Education's troubling data about national teacher and staff shortages, particularly in ESL and specialized fields, is a stark reminder that our task is far from complete. However, as Peggy G. Carr, the Commissioner for the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) said, “It’s clear we all need to come together—policymakers and community leaders at every level—as partners in helping our educators, children, and families succeed."

The need for collective action has never been greater. There is critical work to be done, ground to be regained, and futures to be molded. New American Scholars is committed to this cause, because every child deserves the chance to be a scholar, and every scholar has the potential to change the world.