University of Utah professor helps young Sudanese refugees

Dr. Tino Nyawelo teaches young Sudanese refugees after school.Dr. Tino Nyawelo, a Lecturer in Physics and Astronomy and Research Associate with the Center for Science and Mathematics Education, is helping Sudanese youth in Utah take advantage of educational opportunities.  The University of Utah's Center for Science and Math Education, Refugee Services, and Utah's Department of Workforce Services teamed up to start an after-school program that addresses the unique needs of the teenage refugee population.  The program is in its third year and is currently helping 200 young Sudanese students adjust to life in a new country and succeed in learning math and science.

Dr. Nyawelo grew up in Sudan, eventually leaving for Europe to do his graduate studies. Science was his favorite subject in school, a passion that he is currently trying to pass on to a new generation of students. KSL News recently profiled Dr. Nyawelo's work with the Sudanese community in Utah.

A major focus of the program is trying to help Sudanese students develop an interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, also referred to as STEM subjects.  These subjects tend to have even lower numbers of women, refugees, and other minorities than many other academic areas.  To this end, Dr. Nyawelo's program often partners with other outreach programs at the University of Utah, including  ASPIRE, the outreach program for the Telescope Array project.  At a recent visit to the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, students participated in an after-school STEM workshop on prime colors led by Julie Callahan, the Program Coordinator for ASPIRE.

Julie Callahan teaches students about the physics of light.During the workshop, students learned about the physics of light and how we see different colors.  Several students noted how the workshop helped them understand the science behind topics that they encountered elsewhere.

Although the project is still relatively new, a number of students have already moved on to studies in math and science at the university level.