by: Amani Anderson
Here at Stuart there are Central American students who are not only new to this country, but new to the family they live with. Reunified is a Stuart support group for students whose parents came to America for a better life and had to leave them behind with relatives. It is run by the ESOL department at Stuart and has been going strong for four years with an average of 30 students annually.
“We have a lot of students coming from Central America whose parents come to America for a better life, but couldn’t bring their children at first. The children are left in Central America with a grandparent or aunt who takes care of them. Then, the children get brought to the United States, and they haven’t seen their parents for 10 years or since they were babies,” said guidance counselor Richeal Fretwell.
“They have no relationship with them whatsoever; they don’t even know them. They come here and live with them, and so the group is just for support,” said Fretwell.
“I think that the ESOL department noticed it as a concern – that we had a lot of students that were in that situation, called reunification who tend to be at-risk for dropping out of school and we and the counselors noticed that there were a lot of students coming in that didn’t know their parents that had a lot of emotions going on,” Fretwell said. The group also focuses on drug prevention.
The group helps the students by offering support and communication techniques to cope with coming to a new family and country. “We work with communications, role play, dealing with your feelings, just dealing with the transition of moving to this country and living with a new family, and just where they play in that transition,” continued Fretwell. Because the parents have been living in the US for a while, they could have assimilated or become attached to the American culture that their children are foreign to, leaving a bridge in the family.
Not only does this group help with support, but it can also change a student’s confidence in personal success and happiness in America. “We’ve been doing this for four years; I think it’s turned out well. I think that it changes the students’ perspectives and builds supportive relationships in school in this way,” said Fretwell.
Not only Central Americans go through these types of transitions. Foreigners from across the world coming to America and specifically to Stuart have to deal with problems like this. “I appreciate their courage of coming to a new country, with a new language. It’s like they’re alone because they don’t know their family and they have to make it on their own,” concluded School Counselor Virginia Justis.