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Our Mission

We support refugees in their journey to become fully participating members of the West Michigan community. We envision a thriving, multicultural West Michigan community where all have an opportunity to pursue a better future!


Our History

Founded in 2006, the Refugee Education Center (REC) is a registered 501(c) (3) non-profit based in Grand Rapids, MI. Formed by refugees and immigrants, it has always been central to the organization to share the knowledge learned from a first-person perspective of how to navigate refugee services and participating as a new member of the community. While growing to add expert knowledge of refugee and social services, REC has viewed and will always view this first-hand experience as vital to the organization’s success. REC primarily engages the refugee community, and newly resettled refugees in two ways, including: through partnerships with local refugee resettlement agencies, and through REC’s own Community Leaders embedded in the community. REC walks alongside refugees in the post-settlement phase of their journey —continuing services for however long it takes to provide the tools and remove the barriers to fully participate in the community.


Our Leadership


Susan Kragt, MPA - Executive Director

Erin VanMaanen - Operations Director

Matt Clark, M.Ed. - Advancement Director

Abdi Osman - Volunteer Coordinator

Alison Kummer - K-12 Programs Coordinator

Nikki Dunn - Family Engagement Coordinator

Hannah Werth - High School Completion Coordinator

Christine Ingabire - College & Career Coordinator

Emily Scholl - Marketing Coordinator

Ruth Langkamp - Development Assistant

Krishna Bista - Community Worker

Rahma Madnur - Community Worker

Gin Sum Piang - Community Worker

Innocent Twizere - Community Worker

Agnes Mukagasana - Community Worker

Hands Connected Multicultural Center Staff

Mandi Rycenga - Hands Connected Center Director

Zara Hayat - Lead Teacher

Basilissa Uwera - Lead Teacher

Safaa Abas - Lead Teacher

Frida Mutoni - Associate Teacher

Purnima Adhikari - Associate Teacher

Jennifer Wiltse - Float Teacher


John Harrington - President

Blerta Bushati, M.Sc. - Vice President

Nichole Northern, CPA - Treasurer

Rebecca Chabot - Secretary

Lynn Schmoll, M.Ed.

Dr. Rima Shaw, MD, MBA

Alma Tabakovic, M.A.

Swithina Mboko, PhD

Mike Roth, J.D.