Education

This is how a school is trying to help new immigrants focus on going to college.

After moving from Yemen to the Bronx three years ago, Ahmed Edad went to college hoping to move from a two-bedroom apartment shared with his mother, brother, grandmother and uncle to a more idyllic environment. I decided to go. ..

The pandemic set him almost aside, revealing the steep uphill slopes of many first-time college applicants whose families are heavily affected by the virus in terms of health and income.

“We were all infected with COVID and suffered for weeks, so it made me wonder what my family would be without me,” he said, saying that his 30-hour weekly clerk income made his relatives. It helped to help. “”[But] I wanted to leave so that I could focus more on my education. “

It took several months for Edad and his family to recover from the coronavirus and regain their lost income. Edad then planned to attend Lehman College near his home until his mother and high school college counselor, teacher, and principal encouraged him to stick to his dreams. He currently encourages English learners at his alma mater and students at the International Academy of Assistance and Preparation (ELLIS) to comply with higher education aspirations. Recently, on one of 15 virtual college tours, he shares his story from a dorm room in SUNY Potsdam. A school was organized to connect graduates with current ELLIS students.

Jackie Peña, one of ELLIS Prep’s college counselors, serves only older immigrant students, demonstrating to current students that “there is light at the end of the tunnel” during a pandemic. I planned a tour for you. She wanted Edad to share his story with current students and show them that he could attend a four-year college. Many experts agree that frequent student and college briefings help keep them focused, even if the family first seeks a degree.

The coronavirus prevents students from interacting with guidance and college counselors on a regular basis, so it navigates the maze to college, including meeting application deadlines, filling out financial assistance forms, and finding scholarship opportunities. Can be difficult. According to Peña, this process is already dazzling for the first immigrant students in the family to attend a US university. She is concerned that the pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, making it difficult for families who may be financially struggling to “agree with this idea” in higher education.

“Most of it has to do with personal relationships and keeping in touch with young people and stopping by and saying,’Oh, did you fill out those forms?'”, Pre-K-12 Julie Sugarman, a senior education policy, said. Analyst at the National Center for Immigration Integration Policy at the Institute for Immigration Policy. “With so many forms and questions to fill out, all of these direct moments are a successful effort to get the kids on track.”

EducationTrust staff chief Sally Mayes fills out FAFSA and other aid forms that help colored students, immigrant students, and students in low-income households pay to college compared to their white and wealthy classmates. It says it is unlikely. -New York to track university access data. According to the group, the number of high school students in New York who filled out the FAFSA form fell by more than two points in the 2019-2020 school year, when the building was closed in the spring, after it was almost unchanged from the previous year.

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center figures, based on data from three-quarters of higher education institutions, show that nationwide first-time freshmen enrollment fell 13% compared to last year, black, Hispanic, and native. Significantly reduced among American students. .. These declines can be due to a variety of factors, including the financial burden and the increasing number of students taking gap years.

According to some experts, events like virtual tours hosted by ELLIS can help reverse some of these trends.

Vanessa says it’s important to give students different examples from their own community about what a “university journey” looks like, such as an example of an immigrant student who started at a community college and moved to a four-year college. Luna said. Co-founder of Imms Schools. We hold family workshops to provide educators with professional development in supporting undocumented students.

However, not all types of virtual events are useful for immigrant students, Luna said, explaining that individualized support is important. She recently met an undocumented student who attended a virtual college briefing with 50 other students — too open to ask personal questions about immigration status and financial assistance. The forum I felt, the student reported to her.

In addition, almost all families who asked her organization for more information about financial assistance were unaware that undocumented students in New York could receive state tuition assistance through the New York Dream Act. Luna said.

“We see this as a trend and we don’t have the support we need at this time to access the university,” Luna said.

According to Pena, in order for ELLIS students to be interested in college, they need to discuss not only higher education but also campus visits frequently. Most students have never seen a college campus and do not have the resources to go on their own. Over the past few years, about 100 ELLIS students have packed into buses and traveled the north for two days to see several campuses. The school also held workshops for parents to help them understand financial assistance. Without these opportunities, Peña became concerned that students would lose these important sources, especially as more families suffered from unemployment and other financial stresses due to the pandemic.

Therefore, at the beginning of the school year, Peña and some colleagues plan to arrange more than 12 virtual college visits a week and arrange virtual family workshops. 110 students participated in the tour. This is the same as the number of students taking a face-to-face tour.

Approximately 10 students, along with a few ELLIS teachers, logged on to Zoom to view a virtual tour of SUNY Potsdam where Ehdad had a view of the dormitory room and campus from the window of the room.

He talked to students about the difference in workload between high school and college, and then school officials spent time explaining the scholarships and financial assistance opportunities Eddad was using. Edad then left the dormitory and, with the help of a friend, used his iPhone to guide the students to the campus.

Ahmed Ehdad unveiled the SUNY Potsdam campus during a virtual college tour with his former colleagues at the Bronx ELLIS Prep High School.
Reamamine / Chalk Beat

Minutes after the uneven internet, Edad showed off his favorite cafeteria, the library he studies every day, the Students’ Union, and the soccer field.

The traces of the school pandemic were clearly visible.

All the workers in the cafeteria wore masks. In fact, the other students weren’t walking around. Edad, also in a mask, showed his students an empty classroom where all the desks were pushed together because they hadn’t been used for months. There were signs prohibiting people from gathering in certain indoor spaces.

“Hopefully your freshman’s year will be different from mine,” Ehdad told the students.

When it came time to ask questions, no student focused on the pandemic. “What was your most interesting experience at college so far?” Asked one student. “How do you connect with other Potsdam students?” Another wanted to know.

19-year-old Awa Traore is a senior at ELLI SPrep on a tour of Ehdad. SUNY Potsdam is one of several universities she is considering next fall. The tour did not change her view of higher education, as she long believed to enroll in college to study law and medicine, and her teachers frequently talked to students about their options. She said.

Seeing a former classmate on a college campus motivated Traoré, who moved from Mali to the Bronx in 2017.

“I was happy with him,” Traoré said. “When I met him, I was like,’This will be me someday.'”

This is how a school is trying to help new immigrants focus on going to college.

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