SYRACUSE, NY—Since 1978, the city of Syracuse has been teaching English to refugees through the Bob Huss’ School, a program which has built a legacy of cultivating learning the English language. Today, the program is part of the Refugee Assistance Program, and simply known as “Bob’s School.” 

Bob’s School is funded alongside the Syracuse City School District, with the goal of assisting refugees to become acclimated to their surroundings and have as equal of an opportunity to become successful members of the community as anyone else.

In addition to language training, the Refugee Assistance Program also assists refugees with career counseling, job services, as well as integration programs to become familiarized with the latest technology. 

Since its initial beginnings in the 1970s, the program has expanded its services to accommodate deaf refugees. Bob’s school currently holds two courses for the deaf, consisting of a population of students from six different countries. 

American Sign Language (ASL) Instructor Terry Gavagan stated “the lessons tend to be of a more practical nature. [The students] start each day with the calendar and work with time because they need to keep appointments and be on time for class.”

Refugee students also expand upon vocabulary knowledge, focusing on words that they encounter at a doctor’s appointment, or in the case of an emergency.

According to Gavagan, the courses also encourage students to talk about their own experience to become more open with sharing their lives with those around them. For some, a greater challenge has been working with counting money and a new form of currency. Gavagan speculates that even with challenges, “everyone is patient and helpful in class. They are willing to give up time so everyone can get on the same page.”

For more information about the growing program for Syracuse deaf refugees, visit