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Phoenix school district welcomes over 800 students in new refugee program

The students are coming from places like Kenya and, more recently, Afghanistan.
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 6:12 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A Valley school district is bringing in kids from refugee camps worldwide to try to better their education. Right now, the program is seeing a significant increase in kids coming from Afghanistan.

There are over 800 students in the Cartwright School Districts’ Immigration/Refugee Scholar and Family Support Program. None of the students are fluent in English, and a majority come from refugee camps across the world. Arizona’s Family met a seventh-grader in the program who was recently evacuated from Afghanistan.

Mandy Armstrong is an English language arts and social sciences teacher at Glenn L. Downs Social Sciences Academy.

It’s one of 21 schools in the Cartwright District welcoming refugee kids through their new program that started this school year. The students are coming from places like Kenya and, more recently, Afghanistan.

“For someone coming in that knows no English, it’s very challenging, and I can’t imagine how he feels,” Armstrong said.

One of Armstrong’s students is Ali. He was recently separated from his parents and brought to the United States during the U.S. military evacuation in Afghanistan.

It’s one of 21 schools in the Cartwright District welcoming refugee kids through their new...
It’s one of 21 schools in the Cartwright District welcoming refugee kids through their new program that started this school year.(Arizona's Family)

In the classroom, everyone is on the same lesson, but it’s a different way of learning. Teachers communicate with kids in the program by using Google translate.

Armstrong says it’s tough but rewarding to see the outcome. “I translated a Robert Frost poem that we were using, and today, speaking to him over Google translate, he requested he said English language only. So he actually asked me not to translate things into Persian for him, and he tries to keep pacing with the lessons and takes notes,” Armstrong said.

The program coordinator says students are given access to district resources like any other kid. They can utilize the district pantry, clothing closet, and medical clinic. She anticipates the program will continue to grow.

“We are welcoming more refugees every single day, and there is actually a backlog of refugee children at the agencies that are waiting to settle into schools until they have a permanent housing situation,” Christa Schwaiger, the Coordinator for Refugee and Immigrant Program at Cartwright School District said.

As for Ali’s parents, they are stuck in Afghanistan. He is thankful he has his older sister here with him in the United States.