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School / District Resources to Support Immigrant and Refugee Students

All children in California, regardless of immigration status, have a constitutional right to high-quality education.

“And as educators, we also have a moral obligation to ensure a bright future for every child in our care,” says San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold.

California is home to the largest population of immigrants in the country and San Diego County teachers, paraeducators, counselors, and administrators may have students who are newly arrived immigrants (also known as newcomers) in their classrooms and schools.

Some of our students who are newcomers may be refugees to America for political and economic reasons. Under U.S. law, a “refugee” is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin. 

Students who are refugee and newcomer immigrants frequently experience incredible hardships prior to their arrival in U.S. schools. Such difficult ordeals can affect their social and emotional well-being and readiness to learn while at school. Professional learning related to trauma-informed practices can help provide the tools for educators to create a culture of support and respect. Establishing environments that build a network of resiliency around students will also greatly aid immigrant newcomer and refugee students to better engage and build relationships necessary for positive human development and scholarly success at school.

Our students who are refugees often experience challenges and trauma with the sudden upheaval or overwhelming changes of settling into a new location with a new cultural context. It can be helpful if educators have resources related to basic human needs, such as hunger, clothing and shelter readily available. 

Student writing at desk in classroom

Teacher/Counselor/Administrator Resources to Build Safe and Supportive Schools/Classrooms

  • Curricular Materials
  • After-School Opportunities
  • Dual Enrollment Opportunities
  • Scholarship Opportunities
  • High School Credit Recovery
  • Alternative Schooling

To better serve immigrant newcomers and refugees, educators may wish to seek out multilingual/multicultural curricular resources that inform the peers of the assets these students bring to school or incorporate materials that permit students to reexamine their own cultures/literature/art and those of the United States. Empowering students to participate in afterschool programs that enable stronger connections with peers and the local community can also be greatly beneficial.

Since immigrant students may have experienced interrupted schooling or need ample time to learn the English language sufficiently to access the full spectrum of educational opportunities in their community, educators can best assist them by seeking scholarship options which fit these students well, perusing alternative schooling options for students who prefer them, facilitating students dual enrollment in college/career tech programs, and recover high school course credit as needed. Ultimately, creating supplemental and flexible opportunities for immigrant newcomers and refugees to explore their personal interests and pursue their learning goals will maximize their educational success.