Now a student at a suburban San Diego middle school, 12-year-old Abdulhamid Ashehneh thinks about his father, who vanished four years ago, writes Christine Armario for AP. “Months later, Abdulhamid’s mother boarded a bus with her six children, the youngest 2, and fled to Jordan, the sound of bombs ringing in the distance.”
Cajon Valley Middle School enrolled 76 new Syrian refugees when school started this fall.
In addition to limited English and lost years of schooling, the Syrian children “have seen some pretty nasty stuff,” said Eyal Bergman, a family and community engagement officer for the Cajon Valley Union School District. “But I also see incredible resilience.”
Some refugee students are enrolled in “newcomer” classes where they are provided intense English instruction before being placed in mainstream classrooms. Others go directly into classes with English-fluent peers but are assigned to smaller groups for individual instruction. Teachers are trained in identifying trauma, and on-site counselors help students who need extra attention.
. . . At night, Arabic-speaking staff and teachers hold a “parent academy” where newly arrived moms and dads are given bilingual children’s books in English and Arabic and guided on how to help improve literacy at home.
In the 1970s, Chaldean Christians fleeing persecution in Iraq found their way to El Cajon, which is 15 miles east of San Diego. “Those earlier, now established waves of migrants are playing a role in helping settle the new arrivals from Syria,” writes Armario.