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Educator Shares Tips on How to Support Unaccompanied Minors

Educator Shares Tips on How to Support Unaccompanied Minors

In the last year, a large number of unaccompanied minors made their way into U.S. schools, and some schools may be struggling with how to handle an influx of new students who may have significant social and academic needs. 

Lauren Markham, community school manager at Oakland International High School in California, wrote an article for PBS.org, and shared her tips to schools who are unsure on how to support students who are unaccompanied minors. Markham said that she thinks that schools "need to focus on supporting their non-academic needs."

The article begins exploring the story of a tenth-grade student named Ricardo at Oakland International High School. Ricardo left his home country of Guatemala last spring and "made his way up through Mexico and crossing into the Arizona desert."

"His father left when he was a baby in Guatemala and a few years later, his mother passed away," she said. "He had lived with his grandparents for several years, but in 2013, they died too. Gang violence had increased in his hometown and because he was an orphan, he was an easy target for gang recruitment. So he left. There was nothing to go back to, he thought as he walked through the desert in Arizona. But after he got separated from his group, he spotted a border patrol car and turned himself in."

Students like Ricardo and the 94 other unaccompanied minors in Markham's school, she said, "have a hard time concentrating in class. There are the effects of the trauma they’ve almost all experienced impacting their ability to focus, remember and synthesize information."

But school, Markham said, "is critical to their future."

"School provides a safe, structured and supportive environment for these youth who have experienced so much instability, and they need to lea.n English to survive and thrive here should they be granted permission to stay," she said. "Moreover, judges tend to look favorably on children who are attending school, and are often more likely to grant asylum or special immigrant juvenile status to youth who show a commitment to becoming positive, educated, engaged residents of the United States."

Markham emphasized that schools "need to focus on supporting their own needs."

"During the school day, teams of attorneys flock to our school to meet individually with students and see for what kind of relief they might qualify," she said. "More than 45 students have received lawyers this fall alone, and thus have a shot at winning their case to stay."

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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