Many of our members participate in tutoring and mentoring students in SBISD and HISD – from elementary to high school. Carolyn Stoffel had a particular challenge this past year under a new SBISD program which helped integrate refugee children into American schools. She had already been mentoring and tutoring for several years at Nottingham Elementary when along with other volunteers and parents she was asked to participate in this program.
It started in January 2015 at another school with 18 students whose families were coming into the U.S. through the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program. First they were taught about bathroom signs, where the cafeteria, gym and playground were, how to stay in line, how to use school supplies, etc. With the help of ESL teachers who taught them basic English and American school culture they were able to talk about families, siblings and their concerns.
This school year, 2015-2016, SBISD had 43 new refugee students with little or no English. The program was changed from ESL teachers only to one where volunteers could provide assistance in very small groups. Because the enrollment at Nottingham was low, the majority of the students were placed at that school.
Carolyn had already been tutoring a 4th grader there. When she and a dozen or so volunteers attended an orientation session, she wondered if she was up to the job. She was assigned three first graders – one spoke Swahili and two spoke Arabic. She said, “I rationalized these children have witnessed a lot of trauma in their young lives. They were excited to learn and we could undertake this journey together. I tried to make learning English a more fun experience by using games and activities that would stay with them moving forward.” Although the children have made progress, it is uncertain as to whether they will return to Nottingham Elementary next school year. SBISD has not released information on the Refugee Program for September but if you have ESL training and wish to tutor or mentor, call Carolyn and or go to website and volunteer
Edith Dunlop, Volunteer Committee