Over this past summer, Dallas has been a haven for refugees from crisis-stricken Iraq and Syria, while also assisting federal agencies with the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Many Dallas advocacy organizations, nonprofits, and county officials are staying engaged in the issue to ensure Dallas is a proactive, supportive place.
Supporting Immigration Agencies
In July, Dallas Country announced that it would be housing nearly 2000 immigrant children who have been held in detention facilities. The children were to be relocated to existing facilities run by local nonprofits, and would have been integrated into the DISD and RISD school districts in Dallas and Collin counties. The County changed its plans due to federal facilities overestimating their facilities’ occupancy, but will be providing legal support to stay engaged in the process.
Vickery Meadow has also provided assistance to refugees from Iraq and Syria, many of whom came to the United States to escape the conditions of the ongoing civil war and to obtain a higher standard of living and education for their children. Many of these children will be attending local school districts including DISD and RISD. Local nonprofits are working to ease the transition into American schools by providing ESL and language education support to refugees in Dallas.
When I first volunteered at the Kids U tutoring program, I had no idea what to expect. I was working with kids from a different generation, from a different demographic, with different educational needs than what I was used to. After spending my first day on site, these doubts melted away.
On my first day, the coordinator and I went to pick up the children from their previous activity at school and walked them back to the apartment complex where the tutoring facility is located. I introduced myself to some of the children, and two of them started clinging to me as I held their hands on the walk back. I was amazed at how quickly we were able to connect, and for them to become attached to me – the children began squabbling about which one of them I looked most similar to. I had become a mentor figure to them by merely making the commitment to spend my day working with them.
Once we got back to the site, I began helping second- and third-graders with their activities. Each student had to complete a math and reading worksheet to practice their skills before beginning their summer homework. I promised the students that if they finished their work early, we could do an activity with Play-Doh®. This served as a strong motivator to the kids, who scrambled to finish their activities. I made sure they got all their questions correct before moving forward.
Once the children finished their activities, I helped them make X’s and O’s out of Play-Doh so we could play tic-tac-toe. The students meticulously crafted their pieces, and we played tic-tac-toe to celebrate. At the end of the day, one of my students handed me a note that she had been working on the whole class. It was a thank-you note for being her tutor, and she asked if I could be her teacher tomorrow and every day. This melted my heart and made the whole experience worthwhile. It is experiences like this that make my work with DISD worthwhile.