The Study of Adolescent Lives after Migration to America
Fostering Adolescent Wellbeing
Adolescence is a critical phase of development, during which physical, neural, and emotional growth are readily influenced by external factors. Experiences during adolescence can have a profound effect on health and wellbeing that last through adulthood. While this developmental period can be challenging for any individual, adolescents who have been – or whose parents have been – resettled from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region face a number of unique challenges ranging from exposure to conflict in countries of origin to difficult migration experiences to daily stressors related to resettlement in the US.
Scholars, policymakers, and practitioners have increasingly recognized the central role that schools play in supporting these families through the challenges of adjustment. In addition to educating students, safe and inclusive schools can anchor young people in the community, introducing them to peers and adult role models and preparing them to excel in their professional, family, and civic lives. Schools have been shown to contribute not only to student integration, but to the integration of families as well, with parents becoming markedly more involved in their children’s schools over time. However, despite the growing numbers of newcomer students from Arab-majority countries, not enough is known to develop programs and policies that enable schools and their partners to best serve this population.
The Study of Adolescent Lives after Migration to America (SALaMA) is a mixed-methods study that is conducted by Washington University in St. Louis and Qatar Foundation International (QFI) in partnership with a number of school districts and local refugee resettlement agencies around the country. It seeks to assess the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of high school students who have been – or whose parents have been – resettled to the US from the MENA region. It also aims to identify the sources of daily stress in these students’ lives, as well as the corresponding support mechanisms available to them. The study is not only generating important learning about the needs of this growing sub-population, but is also producing insights into means of resilience and best practices taken by schools, communities, and families to support students as they adjust to life in the US. The study findings are being used by QFI and others to design future programming efforts in the US and beyond.