Kansas City education program welcomes, motivates students new to the United States

Posted at 5:35 PM, Jun 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-28 18:44:37-04

It can be a little nerve-wracking starting school for the first time, but imagine starting it in a new country. That's what 60 students are adjusting to at East High School this summer.

These students are a part of the New American Academy, where they learn about the American school system and the culture, while sharing their own culture with others. 

Students in the program have been in the U.S. less than a year and have had limited schooling experiences in their native country.

"Either they've not had access to school, or they've had gaps in their schooling," said KCPS Language Services Director Allyson Hile. "We're really geared toward oral language, and then also helping them find their way in the American school system and in America."

"The first day when I started I was a little bit scared," said Neville Muamab, a student from South Africa. "I was like, 'What is going to happen?' ... So, when I was in summer school, kids were happy with me, they were friendly."

Muamab moved to the United Stated from South Africa about four months ago and has plans to become a doctor. He says this program helps him feel welcomed.

"The teachers are kind, and we get to do extra work, and we're concentrating on work," Muamab said.

Teacher Risa Woods says by teaching these new students, they get to share their own culture, experience and learn from each other's cultural experiences.

"My father is from a different country. He's from Iran," Woods said. "So, I think growing up in two different cultures, that's what initially got me interested, and then when I substitute taught in an ESL classroom, I just fell in love with it."

With a focus on the English language and American schooling, this program provides a smoother transition into the fall school year for incoming students. 

"They just feel safer and more comfortable ... when they have questions or when there's misconceptions or confusion," Hile said.

Muamab says the program allows people from all backgrounds to come together and learn.

"I think people can learn to be as one, because we are all are running for the future," he said.

"This is the story of Kansas City now," Woods said. "This is their neighborhood. This is their school. They're kids, essentially. It's impacting the culture of Kansas City; it's changing the culture of Kansas City."

There are roughly 150 elementary students going through the same program as Muamab right now at Gladstone Elementary.