Newcomer Academy helps immigrant students adapt to a new life - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Newcomer Academy helps immigrant students adapt to a new life

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- They are children, experiencing a kind of violence and hate that most of us could never imagine:  "It was complicated, very complicated," says Ozine Byolmwngu, who immigrated from the Congo.  "People there, they're jealous of everything . They are just bad people but anyway, my country -- how can I hate? It's just my country.  But it's just not so good."

They have come from many nations.  "I came here, I think, to have more peace, to feel more comfortable," says Fadumo Adbulahi, who immigrated from Ethiopia."

They tell the same stories, such as Pakistani immigrant Shafaq Tahir:  "There is religious persecution over there, like the constitution is against us."

They've lived a tragedy no child, no person, should ever know.  "About all of them have lived in a refugee camp for some part of time, says Gwen Snow, Assoc. Principal of Newcomer Academy.

350 students from 25 nations make up the JCPS Newcomer Academy.  It's a one to two-year program for students speaking very little or no English housed as a separate school in Shawnee Academy.  From there students transition to regular middle school or high school.

Tahir says, "Now I am AP (Advance Program) student over there in all my classes."

Snow explains, "They're teaching English, they're teaching a content area, and a new culture shows students how to assimilate."

Fadumo Adbulahi showed around WDRB's Gilbert Corsey on Global Homecoming Day where former students return and meet with new students.

Each classroom is set up as a country.  Students experience the rhythms and the food, among other aspects of the culture.  They become immersed in the culture and then put a stamp on their makeshift passport.

Many teachers don't speak their students' language but somehow they connect using their own heritage.  Still, students face a test that goes far beyond any subject, as Byolmwngu explains:  "If you have something new they don't have, they will find you anywhere to search for that thing and take it from you."

Byolmwngu immigrated from the Congo with his mother and four siblings last year after she was attacked.  The son of a shop owner, he says he is now the man of the house.  His father stayed behind and is on the run in Africa.  "We don't even know where he is now," Byolmwngu says.

For him and others there, the most important lesson is safety and security -- learned a little more day-by-day.  Byolmwngu says, "I cannot feel hungry and I have everything I need here in America."

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