NYC’s elementary school community welcomes dozens of immigrant students

Back to school at PS 145 in Upper Manhattan was once again unusual this fall — but not because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Families and teachers have ditched masks and social distancing for fundraisers and volunteering to welcome about 40 of the more than 2,000 immigrant students enrolling in New York City public schools.

“It was a difficult school opening,” said Principal Natalia Russo.

“I’m usually stuck in logistics — this year is about helping people find jobs, groceries, clothes and underwear,” she said.

The elementary school at 150 West 105th Street has expanded a budget allocated last spring for fewer students to help families enroll without birth certificates and other documentation and adjust to life in the city.

The city’s Department of Education has been working since the spring to welcome the dozens of school-age children among the estimated 11,000 migrants being bused into Manhattan, many of them from Texas.

After reading about asylum seekers being housed at the nearby Park West Hotel, Russo sent Juan Abreu, the parent coordinator at PS 145 The Bloomingdale School, to the emergency shelter to help parents register their children.

One of the newcomers from Venezuela told the Post that she spent half a year saving $700 to travel to the United States with her husband and children. Among their three children was a newborn born to the mother on the way to Ecuador.

The family was shipped to New York from Texas this summer, less than two weeks before school started. The mother said they were not asked if they had family in the city or were planning to travel there.

For Sunday News::09/08/22:Migrant School Kids: New York - A 4 yr. An elderly Venezuelan immigrant returns home from his first day of preschool and sits in front of the Skyline Hotel on 10th Avenue in Hells Kitchen. The hotel has an education office that coordinates the school place for the migrant children and provides transportation, Metrocards and backpacks with school supplies.
PS 145 welcomes approximately 40 of the more than 1,500 immigrant students enrolling in New York City public schools.
Helayne Seidman

Another parent, also from Venezuela, said the family wanted to end up in San Antonio but ended up in the Big Apple instead and were also sent to the Hotel Central Park West less than two weeks before classes started.

At the hotel, Abreu said he initially started out with translation help – but then quickly realized he could do more.

He started a group chat with the migrant families on WhatsApp, a mobile messenger application, to answer questions and organize workshops or trips.

Last week he moderated a class for parents who wanted to enroll their children in after-school programs – a process that Abreu said partially required computer access and was in English.

“I still remember all the things my mom went through,” said Abreu, who came to the United States with his mom when he was 4 and shuffled between shelters until he was 11.

He and other staff at the school, which offers two bilingual programs in Spanish and Russian, have organized weekly laundry trips where teachers take two bags per family home and wash them over the weekend.

However, most families did not come with enough clothing to have even two full bags a week.

“They came back with maybe a third for the whole family,” said principal Russo, whose father was an asylum seeker from Ecuador.

“People came here with nothing but desperation to find a better life.”

The administration has been exploring options for installing a washer-dryer in the school and is also pushing for more counselors and social workers who are fluent in Spanish.

For Sunday News::09/08/22:Migrant School Kids: New York - Venezuelan migrants Escarle Simancas and her son Mathias, 4, left. Many migrants live and gather in front of the Skyline Hotel on 10th Avenue in Hells Kitchen. The hotel has an education office that coordinates the school place for the migrant children and provides transportation, Metrocards and backpacks with school supplies.
Most families did not come with enough clothing to have even two full bags a week.
Helayne Seidman

“We received the announcement of good intentions,” said Naveed Hasan, a parent of a third grader and a member of the school district’s parent-led council. “We don’t have any staffing levels yet.”

Meanwhile, parents and staff have asked for donations, shown newcomers how to get a MetroCard and ride around town, and put together backpacks filled with uniforms and school supplies.

“The whole neighborhood came together today to bring the resources so we don’t have to wait,” Hasan said.

The volunteers have also enlisted the help of community council member Shaun Abreu, who said his office has organized fundraisers for clothing, toiletries and other supplies, as well as legal, language and medical services.

“I was inspired by how Upper Manhattan has made efforts to welcome and support asylum-seeking families who have made their homes here,” Abreu said.

“Our obligations are both legal and moral,” he added.

The school expects more arrivals in the coming months, according to PTA member Jenya Holovach from Ukraine, who also helps families flee the war-torn country.

“More families will come to the school before the new year,” Holovach said.

https://nypost.com/2022/09/19/nyc-elementary-school-community-welcomes-dozens-of-migrant-students/ NYC’s elementary school community welcomes dozens of immigrant students

JACLYN DIAZ

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