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Two Central PA organizations team up to help continue the education of immigrant children during COVID-19

Two organizations, Communities in Schools of PA and IU-13, have partnered up to aid refugee and immigrant students and parents navigate learning during COVID-19

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Through zoom and hybrid learning, it is no secret the COVID-19 pandemic has changed much of how students learn. 

These changes have been difficult for many students to adjust, but two types of students have also had that hardship and more- refugee and immigrant students.

For this reason a Harrisburg non-profit, Communities in Schools of Pennsylvania or CIS of PA, and a Central PA education agency, IU-13, has teamed up to help those students who are immigrants and refugees reach their full learning potential by launching a pilot program for Fulton Elementary School in Lancaster.

"Those kiddos and their families need some more linguistically inclusive, culturally appropriate services to help them figure out how to navigate this constantly changing educational landscape in the wake of COVID," said Jessica Knapp, executive director of CIS of PA.

The cultural navigation will not only include students, but parents as well.

"If a parent needs a referral to a health or a mental health clinic, or to a career link, or the Workforce Development, or English classes, or citizenship classes, Knapp said, "we help provide those service referrals and often that is accompanied by a warm hand-off to that organization."

The community education coordinator of IU-13, Khem Subedi says it's important to remember how difficult the lives are for these type of students.

"Most of these came from a refugee camp where there was a lack of internet, no electricity, no proper curriculum," Khem said, "with all this technology, students get lost, not only students but parents also are confused because they do have a very strong digital divide which is a big barrier."

Although the new culture can be nerve wracking to new families, Subedi is confident with the coalition of educators and families, the outcome can truly help children succeed.

 "School administrators, teachers, students, families bring them together and help them understand the cultural aspects, the educational aspects, expectations," he said, "how they would play an instrumental role in helping their children to be successful in the school system here in this country."

The partnering groups hope to expand this program to more schools across the Central PA region in the near future.

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