Dozens of HISD administrators got a better idea of the many challenges facing some of their immigrant students on Sept. 26, when Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario visited the district’s headquarters to share her story.
Nazario wrote Enrique’s Journey to call attention to the harrowing experience many unaccompanied minors face when leaving Central America to find their parents, and she shared both some of her own experiences from recreating one boy’s trek to find his mother and what educators can do to help these students once they arrive in Houston.
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Children who come to the U.S. by riding the tops of freight trains not only face constant exposure to the elements, but also the ever-present threat of being robbed, raped, or killed by corrupt law enforcement officials who control the check points or gangsters who also ride the rails and patrol the train stops.
“It is truly amazing what these kids go through,” said Nazario. “I could never have imagined this level of determination. These children are sleeping in trees and sewer ditches to avoid detection. They get so thirsty that they use their shirts to filter sewer water. But the trauma isn’t just the journey. It’s also the separation from their parents.”
Nazario applauded HISD administrators for recognizing the unique needs of unaccompanied minors, and encouraged district officials to continue to think about them with compassion.
“I was so warmed to see how HISD has received these children,” said Nazario. “And I was encouraged by your wanting to open more newcomer schools.”
The remainder of Nazario’s visit includes a presentation and Q&A session with Chávez High School students, a roundtable luncheon with HISD’s Hispanic Advisory Committee, and a visit to the Las Americas Newcomers School with Superintendent of Schools Terry Grier.