Sonia Nazario, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Enrique’s Journey told the audience at the Best Practices for School Leaders Luncheon Saturday about her own journey, and the journeys of undocumented and immigrant children.
Nazario chronicled her childhood as the daughter of two immigrants, whose father died when she was 13 and whose mother moved the family back to their native Argentina after his death.
She compared her determination – to do well in college and become a journalist against all odds – to the determination of the children in her book. Those children took perilous, heart-breaking trips thousands of miles from their homes in Central America north to the United States – to be reunited with the mothers who’d left them behind so they could find work and feed their families.
“One in four children in the U.S. is an immigrant or the child of immigrants,” she said. “Those children are in your classrooms and in your districts.”
Nazario suggested ways that schools could help immigrant children, especially the ones who have traveled alone to find their parents and may be scarred emotionally or physically from the journey. In addition to having depression and trauma issues, many have never been to school or only in school for a short time. “They don’t know how to hold a pencil or scissors,” she said.
Their parents may be illiterate, hold several jobs, or live in crowded conditions where the children can’t find quiet places to do their homework.
Newcomer schools, where students are taught bilingually and are eased into school during a transition period can help, she says. Also, these schools help parents acclimate and understand their roles in helping their students in schools.
More after-school programs for immigrant students and their parents would help, she says. “And pass the Dream Act,” which gives citizenship to children of undocumented parents, she said. “They didn’t break the law. They should have a pathway to legalization.”
Also at the luncheon, the 2014 Magna Award winning districts were honored. For more information about the Magna winners and the awards program to www.asbj.com/magna. The Magna Awards are sponsored Sodexo.