Communities thrive when schools nurture a sense of belonging among young people and their families. The inverse is also true. Communities suffer when schools do not meet the needs of their student populations. Schools are where the American dream should begin, and they are failing. Immigration is driving the majority of population growth in the United States. Our schools are at the forefront of this demographic change but are unprepared for it.
- When high numbers of immigrants arrive, prejudice and xenophobia against them rise.
- Immigrant students report that their teachers don’t understand them; they are frequent targets of identity-based bullying and feel like they don’t belong.
Why it matters: When educators don’t have the training, resources, and support they need, it negatively impacts immigrant youth’s academic outcomes and their social-emotional well-being —ultimately depriving all young people of the social networks that lead to economic opportunity and strengthen our communities. The success of immigrant youth, 27% of the school-aged population in the US, begins with inclusion and belonging.
The big picture: With immigration reform deadlocked and anti-immigrant fears amplified by mass and social media, we must reimagine our tools to counteract anti-immigrant sentiment. The potential of schools to help individuals and communities navigate demographic change is an untapped resource. English language learning is a small but meaningful part of the answer. However, the only money schools receive related to immigration is targeted at language acquisition-related services, often neglecting programming needed to address the broader needs of students and their communities. Creating the conditions and opportunities for meaningful engagement across group identities in schools leads to positive changes that can last a lifetime.
Our solution: Re-Imagining Migration (RIM) believes schools have the potential to help individuals and communities navigate demographic change. Schools can be greenhouses for inclusion and belonging that counteract harmful anti-immigrant sentiment. And teachers and school leaders are actively seeking the training and resources they need to do so. Recognizing that communities have different needs, RIM has designed a research-based approach that offers educators practical tools and strategies they adopt to promote the dispositions that allow newcomers to thrive, their peers to learn, and communities to successfully navigate the predictable tension that surfaces with demographic change.
Go deeper: Last year, RIM reached tens of thousands of educators online, in addition to in-depth pilot programs in Massachusetts, Nebraska, and New York. 99% of participants who attended our workshops and webinars said they left more confident serving immigrant students and teaching about immigration. The evolution and development of RIM’s programmatic approach is based on significant and well-established academic research. Our approach has been thoughtfully developed in collaboration with our partners at Harvard Graduate School of Education, diverse communities of classroom educators, and migration scholars to promote the social-emotional, civic, and intellectual capacities crucial for our youth to live in our changing world.
Implementation of the Re-Imagining Migration model has the power to:
- Unleash the potential of immigrant youth and prepare their peers to navigate demographic change.
- Build communities of belonging by Improving the school climate and promoting the ability of educators to serve a diverse student population.
- Leverage relationships and dispositions nurtured in schools to build a strong sense of belonging within and across communities.
- Develop a workforce and population prepared for the needs of our changing communities, which will benefit from the positive economic and cultural impact migration ignites.