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New KCPS international center welcomes immigrant families

International Welcome Center.jpeg
Posted at 6:10 AM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 08:16:42-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools are having class in person again and some students are coming in with lots of energy, including those in Erin Pins' class.

"Lots of energy running around and I'm loving it so far, keeping me on my toes," Pins said.

She is a teacher at Global Academy, a part of KCPS' new International Welcome Center, which provides schooling for children who recently moved to the U.S.

"A lot of them haven't had previous schooling or haven't dealt with technology," Pins said. "So it's been really cool being able to teach them and show them all new things. It's really exciting."

Nearly 50 students will come to the Academy, spending half their day there and the other half at their traditional KCPS school.

"Kansas City really has a large population of immigration and migrant families and a lot of our refugee families are coming from places that maybe have no access to school," KCPS Director of Language Services and Cultural Equity, Allyson Hile said. "And so this program, the Global Academy, is serving students who have had interrupted or no access to education in their home country. They come not being literate in their native language and that makes it really difficult to be literate in another language, so what we focus on here is really the specialized needs of those students"

Students will learn how to speak, read and write in English, while also learning some of the basics, such as how to be in a classroom and school rules.

Several languages are spoken in the classroom, including Spanish, Arabic, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Kinyamulenge, Somali, Karen and Burmese.

Interpreters make their way into the classrooms to assist the teachers and children.

For interpreter Engoma Fatikim, he understands the barriers for some of these students.

"I came here when I spoke little to no English and I was pulled straight into the classrooms," Fatiki said.

He moved to Columbia, Missouri, in 2014 from Mozambique, Africa. In 2015, he and his family moved to Kansas City.

Fatiki already spoke four languages, and now adds English to his language list.

"I came here with zero English and now I speak English and I'm in a position where I get to help other people," Fatiki said. "And those students, they're also coming with a story. A similar story like mine, but they're in a position that where they're going to learn and want to learn, and to know English and be better prepared in our community, our schools."

The center works with both students and their families.

"We're here to help parents and newcomers who otherwise don't speak English," Fatiki said. "Whether that's enrolling them to school or helping the parents if they want to talk to the teachers or questions about schooling."

Pins says it's not an easy transition to move to a new country.

"Especially with refugees where they're coming from, and the trauma they've been through," Pins said. "They need support, they need people to love them and care about them and that's why we're here."

Whether the interactions are big or small, the staff are making each one intentional to make the difference.

"I can't (help) thinking about how the little impact in the classroom can help them to be successful in the future," Fatiki said.

There's also a refugee coordinator on site who does orientations for parents to learn about schooling in Kansas City. Those happen on a bi-monthly basis.

The center is housed inside Woodland Early Learning Center. They're still enrolling students into the new center. To learn more, visit the center's website.