In these polarized times, schools are at the forefront of demographic change. 27% of the entire student population in the United States identify as first or second-generation immigrants, refugees, or asylum seekers.
They are not receiving an equal nor equitable education– leaving them feeling invisible and disconnected.
To understand the experiences of immigrant youth in schools, last spring we collaborated with Carola Suárez-Orozco, Director of the Immigration Initiative at Harvard. She designed a pilot study to measure the impact of school climate on students’ feelings of belonging. Here is some of what we have learned:
- Newly arrived immigrant students report a lower sense of school belonging than their non-immigrant peers.
- Newly arrived immigrant students report higher rates of bullying stemming from their family’s background than their non-immigrant peers.
- Immigrant students report a lower sense of safety (in and out of school) than non-immigrant students.
- Students who report being discouraged from using their family’s home language are more likely to feel that adults do not respect different races and ethnicities.
- First and second-generation immigrant students don’t see themselves represented in the curriculum.
The emerging evidence from this study reflects broader trends. Rising anti-immigrant hate in our communities becomes bullying in schools. Non-immigrant students are increasingly targeted by myths about immigrants and those that support them.
This toxic mix contributes to segregation, exclusion, and disengagement with severe consequences for all students, our communities, and our country.
Sandy Mendoza (above), one of the 5,000 educators who attended our professional development last year, explains:
“We often speak of challenges immigrants face….I loved your comment about students needing a ‘shared understanding with each other’… They connect through shared stories, experiences, and struggles…making diversity visible really struck a chord with me. Allowing our international students to stand out and be leaders in events that promote happiness and welcoming feelings was a perfect way to promote diversity.” Read more about Sandy’s story here.
Re-Imagining Migration prepares schools to support youth in our changing communities. We provide educators with customized training and access to the resources needed to create inclusive learning environments and curricula that promote the success of immigrant-origin youth while fostering a sense of belonging among all learners.
Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting stories of our impact. Please read them, share them with your friends and family, and encourage them to join you in making a donation.