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Las Americas is the hope for a world of children

2014 October 2
by HISD Communications

There was quite a fuss over the summer when the story broke about tens of thousands of Central American refugee children being detained by the federal government in border states. Briefly, HISD became part of the story when the government representatives scouted one of our facilities to see if it would be a suitable center for these children.

Of course, we were happy to become involved because we do this every day – take in youngsters fleeing terrible situations all over the world.

The government is agreeing now to grant some children refugee status, but largely, the headlines have faded, the furor has died down, and the government’s relocation move to Houston didn’t happen. Still we’re going about our business of making sure refugee children from El Salvador, Honduras, Syria, Bhutan, Ethiopia and dozens of other troubled areas are educated and nurtured.

Last week, HISD was blessed to have Sonia Nazario spend a day in our district. Ms. Nazario is a Pulitzer Prize-winner for her writings about refugee children. Her book, Enrique’s Journey, tells of the harrowing train trip these brave young people make for a better life in the U.S. She has made the trip herself, evading gangsters who steal, rape, and murder.

Ms. Nazario spoke to administrators, to our Hispanic Advisory Committee, and to a student audience at Chávez HS. I was fortunate to tour our Las Americas Newcomer School with her.

Las Americas is one of HISD’s most magical places—because it shows our heart and because of its power to dispel myths about refugees and immigrants, which is what Ms. Nazario does in her writings.

The 350 or so youngsters there are in grades 4 through 8. They are disciplined, hardworking, resourceful, well-groomed, respectful – and grateful for the gift of a high-quality education. They are blind to borders and nationalities – Principal Marie Moreno tells of how youngsters from warring nations become best friends, realizing their common bonds.

Many of them are already well-educated and merely need to learn English – which they do quickly, thanks to the dedication of the diverse Las Americas staff.

While some are indeed “unaccompanied” on their journeys, most have families here who have preceded them – some by five years or more. Parents find resources through the school to help them adjust to life in Houston, and they are deeply involved in their children’s education at a level that most principals in HISD would envy.

I’m proud of how Houston and our HISD family hasn’t succumbed to the outcry to “protect our borders” against such youngsters. These are our children, and we can all be enriched by hearing their stories of bravery and hope and learn from their sacrifice and commitment.

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