PAIR celebrates 10 years

February 22, 2017

Please mark your calendar for PAIR’s 10th anniversary celebration at the annual

Youth Empowerment Luncheon

Friday, May 5, 2017, at the Junior League

Help us honor our founders – who set the course for PAIR’s first 10 years.

The Very Beginning

In the fall of 2006, six Rice University students – Chethana Biliyar, Elaine Chang, Steve Dictor, Christina Lagos, Rajen Mahagaokar, and Alex Triantaphyllis – connected with local refugee families through a faculty member. They began helping refugee youth with tasks that weren’t part of the work of resettlement agencies.

The founders quickly realized that many refugee youth in Houston were very motivated to succeed but lacked the information and often the English required to help themselves. Many were looking for some support. College students were ready to jump in as a resource and eager to know this diverse group of young people aspiring to reach ambitious goals.

Connecting the two groups was the obvious next step. The founders recruited other students, organized a Rice club, and in the spring of 2007 began bringing about 20 refugee youth to the computer labs in Rice’s Language Resource Center for weekly “Saturday Sessions,” focusing on English, computer literacy, and job readiness. Thanks to Claire Bartlett, then LRC director, for her support and guidance!

Expanding to Meet the Need

The founders understood that nonprofit status would open more funding and expansion opportunities. In May of 2007, PAIR became a nonprofit organization, recruited a board, and began to develop and expand its programs.

Renee Stern became PAIR’s first board president, managing operations and building the organization’s structure. Elaine Chang, between Rice graduation and medical school, became acting program manager. In 2009, Kirsten Doyle, a Rice alumna, became PAIR’s first executive director. The rest of the founders remained involved as members of the board and advisory board.

10 Years Later

Today, PAIR continues to connect refugee youth with college and community volunteers, helping newcomers adjust to life in Houston, succeed in school, and reach their goals. PAIR has grown each year and now serves more than 400 youth with about 200 volunteers annually.

The founders set the course for PAIR’s development, but many, many others – all dedicated to improving the lives and futures of young refugees – have contributed to PAIR’s success.

Nicole Ellis, who became executive director in 2010, led six years of growth and achievement. Dedicated staff and Americorps VISTA members have worked tirelessly to make sure programs meet the needs of refugee youth. Countless college students have served as officers in their student groups and as devoted mentors and compassionate guides to refugees. And more and more, members of the community at large have become mentors, as well.

Of course, all of you in the PAIR community have played a crucial part . PAIR wouldn’t be possible without you.

Please join us at our anniversary celebration honoring PAIR’s founders –
and looking forward to the next 10 years of achievement!

Youth Empowerment Luncheon
Friday, May 5, 2017

11:00-12:00 – Reception
12:00-1:00 – Luncheon

Hadia Mawlawi – Honorary Chair
Judy Le – Keynote Speaker

Make your reservation today!