Welcoming immigrant students to City Connects schools

As immigration to the United States continues, schools are enrolling immigrant students and working to meet their needs. 

Providing this support to students and their families is a core strength of the City Connects model. This is especially true at City Connects schools which are located in Boston, Springfield, Minneapolis, and other areas with immigrant communities. In these communities, City Connects Coordinators have been assessing students’ strengths and needs and connecting them to services, supports, and enrichment programs. 

One important result is better outcomes for students. As City Connects’ 2022 Progress Report explains: 

“Immigrant students who experienced City Connects significantly outperformed immigrant students who never experienced the intervention on both reading and math achievement test scores. City Connects also narrowed achievement gaps between immigrant students and their English-proficient peers.”

This finding comes from research conducted by Eric Dearing, a Boston College professor at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development. 

In a recent conversation Dearing noted, “We certainly have immigrants who are pulled to the United States who have high levels of education. But we also have many immigrants who come who are being pushed to the United States from countries that are experiencing war, trauma, and poverty.” 

Schools can make a difference for these families. One example is St. John Paul II Catholic School, a City Connects school in Minneapolis.

The school has been serving immigrant students since the 1800s, an article in Local Today reports. Now the work is even more necessary. Five years ago, the school helped a newly arrived eighth grader from Ecuador learn English and other school topics to prepare him for graduation. The staff succeeded and the student went on to high school. 

“Other families soon followed,” the article says, “drawn to the area by relatives and friends, warmly welcomed by nearby Sts. Cyril and Methodius parish and others in the community. As families arrived, three students one year joined the school straight from Ecuador. Another year, eight.

“Now, English is the second language of 76% of the 177 students at the kindergarten through eighth grade school. Nearly every classroom has newly arrived immigrants in the mix, including four refugees from conflict-torn Ukraine who joined the school this fall.”

“Students from countries such as Ecuador often have unique needs, such as understanding what winter is and the need for a warm coat. Aid to all students includes a City Connects program helping students meet material, social and academic needs, led by City Connects Coordinator Silvia Ochoa.”

Ochoa helps families learn about local activities like sledding and tubing, and she provides students with daily emotional support. She notes in the article about her work with students, “We share a lot. How they are feeling, who is there to support them. I teach them to express their feelings and ask for help in class.”

Coordinators who do this work have a substantial impact. As they build strong relationships with families and students who are new to this country, they help students succeed in school – and in their new communities.

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