About us


The goal of traditional U.S. refugee resettlement agencies is to get families financially stable as quickly as possible. This means agencies focus on the breadwinner of the family. While important, this goal sidelines young adult family members who also need guidance on navigating education, careers, and everyday life in a new country. 

RYSE Initiative is developing the mentorship programming infrastructure and life skills curriculum to holistically support young adult refugees.  At this time, RYSE would not provide direct support to refugee youth, but rather, to refugee-serving organizations who can outsource the curriculum and programming RYSE has developed. The ultimate goal of RYSE is to see young adult refugees self-actualize in both their local communities and in the United States more broadly.

Our Mission

Refugee Youth Success and Empowerment (RYSE) Initiative provides cross-collaboration and capacity-building infrastructure for community-based mentorship programs supporting young adult refugees working towards academic, career, and personal goals. 

Our Vision

Empower young adult refugees living in the United States with the contextual life skills to pursue opportunities for further education, career choices, self-sufficiency, and self-actualization in their new home with the support of the local community.


By the time Therese McCarry was nineteen years old she had lived outside her country of citizenship for eleven years, acquired two new languages, and attended ten schools; half of which were local public schools. Growing up in cultures and languages she didn’t understand imparted a heightened awareness towards all young people growing up in a society different from where they started out life and influenced her decision to work in resettlement operations. Therese has worked as a Community Engagement Coordinator in charge of all volunteer and intern activities for a refugee resettlement agency in New York City. She has also worked with the Red Cross and UNHCR on the implementation of a cultural integration program in North Macedonia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The inspiration for RYSE Initiative stemmed from Therese’s experience as a volunteer youth mentor for two resettlement agencies around Washington, DC.

Jillian Furey has always enjoyed learning about new cultures and the world around her. This led her to her path of becoming a social worker, working in refugee resettlement as a caseworker and then transitioning to developing a refugee youth mentorship program expanded Jillian’s passion of building communities across cultures and nourishing healthy, beneficial relationships through mentoring. Her greatest passion is social justice and outside of refugee resettlement has worked in HIV research, rural health disparities, and transformative justice initiatives.

Bio coming soon.

Tessa Ambridge is an experienced ESL instructor who has taught at the community college level for 11 years. In this role she has taught and advised many refugee and immigrant young adults. She first came into teaching ESL through tutoring an Afghan refugee, and has seen the power of one-on-one relationships and guidance to meaningfully open doors for newcomers to this country. Previous to teaching, she worked in charter school development, where she gained experience in curriculum research, recruiting, community outreach and teacher training while helping open charter schools in underserved areas in the DC/Maryland region. 

Mckenzie Howell is motivated to address the needs of vulnerable youth populations around the world. Support is at the core of her experience as a former student mentor and community organizer at Miami University of Ohio. Since graduating, Mckenzie has researched and reported on issues relating to international poverty and education inequity. She hopes to apply her firsthand experience working with youth and knowledge of international dynamics to support both mentors and mentees.

Cricket Baldwin is passionate about refugee advocacy and support, specifically through cultural understanding and engagement. She’s previously worked on curriculum for high school students centered around developing countries to better understand the interconnectedness of literacy and poverty rates before refining her interests in refugee support through education measures. Currently she is a student at George Washington University focusing on Middle Eastern languages, culture, and politics. After graduation, she hopes to work with refugees in-country. 

Aroosha Solomon has always been passionate about learning new languages and different cultures, which led to her passion for advocating and bringing awareness to refugees and international humanitarian problems around the world. She comes from an Iranian background and has parents that came to the United States as immigrants so she is hoping that will help give insight in the work she does at RYSE. She is excited to help fuel her passion in international work and make an impact at RYSE as well as diversifying her mindset in what it means to be a refugee in the United States. 

Crystal Zhou has worked towards providing youth with more equal educational and professional opportunities internationally. She came to the U.S. alone for high school so she has experienced navigating a foreign culture and the challenges that came with it. In college, she worked as a teaching assistant for the economics and computer science department. She was also a program director for Amherst College’s summer program in China which aims to bring more students a liberal arts education experience. Currently, she is working with an organization that helps women with career training and placement. Through these engagements, Crystal has gained skills in program development and a deeper understanding of how to empower individuals through mentorship and programming opportunities. Crystal is currently a consultant based in the U.S. 

Sara Vickers comes to RYSE with a passion for creating strong social systems and the infrastructure necessary to enhance the social, emotional, and economic well-being of individuals and communities. Sara earned her master’s in public policy where she focused on policies, programs, and strategies for enhancing mental health. Sara became especially passionate about utilizing leadership and interpersonal communication as a tool to enhance mental health and wellness while simultaneously preventing burnout. Sara’s love for getting things done while building and supporting teams in the process led her to pursue a career in project management. She’s served as a project leader for a variety of non-profit, government, and private sector organizations. Currently, Sara serves as an organizational project management coach who helps teams and organizations implement project management solutions and enhance team communication and conflict resolution skills. She’s excited to combine her passions for community capacity building and project management to enhance the operations of RYSE.

Krystal Gordon is a Jamaican Attorney-at-law currently residing in the U.S. She is pursuing her master’s degree at Trinity Washington University in School Counseling, focusing on the urban student population. As the number of refugees across the globe has reached historic highs, Krystal believes there is a great need for interventions that enhance refugee youth’s social-emotional well-being. She is, therefore, passionate about her role in the RYSE Initiative and supports its mandate to design individualized programs for this population. This, she believes, will increase the chances of refugee youth attaining self-actualization in their new home. Soon, she hopes to become a paraprofessional – a School Counselor, and an Immigration Attorney.

Andrea Lowe is passionate about human rights and international development, having worked with several refugee serving organizations, as well as serving in the Peace Corps in Indonesia. She’s worked on numerous educational projects serving refugee and immigrant youth and adults in the United States, and is excited to continue working in refugee resettlement. She has experience mentoring young adults, helping them to achieve their personal and academic goals and understands the value of such mentorship programs. She is excited to assist RYSE in flourishing by using her connections and passion for refugee resettlement by creating active engagement and awareness of RYSE’s mission!



Young adult refugees 16- to 30-year-old young adults living in the United States who are current or former asylum seekers, asylees, and refugees – can experience language and cultural barriers, post-traumatic or acculturative stress, and other immigration-related stressors that can negatively impact mental and behavioral health. These factors can affect the ways in which young adults seek to navigate their new communities and pursue opportunities for personal or professional growth. For example, a youth adult refugee’s level of English could require retaking one or two grades in the US public high school system, isolating them from similar-aged peers, and further delaying social or educational opportunities. In addition to “getting stuck” in low wage jobs, older youth can often assume the financial burden of supporting or supplementing their family’s income. Many young adults become decision-makers of the family due to their relatively advanced English skills and often feel compelled to stay in the first available job despite having hopes of returning to school, moving up in a desired career ladder, or pursuing other goals.