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Riyah Patel in Manchester, NH (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Riyah Patel in Manchester, NH (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

‘The lifeblood of the state’

New American Scholars was founded by a teenager who wanted to help other young people thrive.

As a 15-year-old, Riyah Patel found one thing she could do to make her community better — and she did it.

She had just finished her first year of high school during the global pandemic, having done her schoolwork remotely from her dorm room at Philips Exeter Academy. She felt very isolated. She thought about her immigrant mom, and how hard school had been for her as a child. Then she thought about the kids who were managing both things — immigrant and refugee children who were isolated by language and experience and the pandemic.

And she thought about how to help.

Riyah contacted nonprofits that work with immigrants and refugees, and offered to tutor younger kids.

Soon, she had a group of 11 eager learners meeting all summer at the Concord
Public Library. And a waiting list.

“Their insecurities melted away as they realized they were very brilliant despite a language barrier and a cultural barrier,” Riyah said.

She could not keep up with the demand. After learning all she could, and consulting with nonprofits and educators, Riyah formed the nonprofit New American Scholars.

Now 36 volunteer tutors work year-round with 160 kids in Manchester, Concord and on the Seacoast.

The group works in partnership with other nonprofits, and uses technology platforms to create personalized learning experiences in math, reading and more. A Foundation grant helped purchase computer tablets.

Riyah sees these young scholars as “the lifeblood of the state.” She hopes that her work helps them feel a deep sense of belonging in this place they call home.