Welcoming Newcomers

Published: Jul 23 2020

Tina Vasquez is a first generation American, and so are the students she teaches at Charlottesville High School. But their experiences as immigrants are very different. Tina came to America with her parents from Germany; one of her students arrived from Central America via a truck concealing layers of humans stacked on each other and a subsequent walk across a desert. Other students have never been to school before, never sat at a desk – spending their lives working in agricultural fields to help support their families. Her students most often arrive alone, hoping to connect with family members resettled there by the International Rescue Committee. And they look to Tina hoping to develop survival language skills, social emotional skills and friends.

Today we visit with Tina Vasquez, teacher of Newcomer Students at Charlottesville High School in Charlottesville, VA. Tina is a new 2020 Fellow who designed a fellowship to attend the International Colloquium on Languages, Cultures, and Identity in Schools and Society, in Soria, Spain. When she executes her plans next summer, she will begin on the shores of southern Spain where most refugees arrive by boat, attend and present at the Colloquium, research across Spain innovative programming addressing the refugee issue, and complete a home stay. All of this to explore the impact of ethnic and cultural identity-related issues on academic success in Newcomer high school refugee and immigrant English Learners and develop new approaches that support them.