Kansas City's New Americans

Watching the minds at work in five "New American" classrooms at three public schools in Kansas City this past Tuesday was inspiring! These students are among the 4,000+ English language learners from over 45 countries who are currently enrolled in Kansas City Public Schools. 

Newly arrived from Somalia, Burma, Honduras, Guatemala, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, El Salvador and elsewhere, the students are adapting to a dramatically different environment. They are missing old friends while making new ones. They are wrapping their minds around new words, new routines, new expectations, new everything; many of the students are teenagers and in school for the first time in their lives.

My friend, Stacey, invited me to photograph New American classrooms at Gladstone Elementary, East High School and Northeast Middle School. Refugee enrollment in Kansas City Public Schools has increased by 45% since 2013. The goal of the district's growing New Americans Program is to help the students adjust to their new schools and become literate in English. 

These and other pictures from that day will be shown tomorrow (Saturday, April 9) at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City just prior to the 2:00 pm airing of the documentary film, I Learn America. The film follows five resilient immigrant teenagers at a New York City public school. It's message: "The children of immigration, here to stay, are the new Americans. How we fare in welcoming them will determine the nature of this country in the 21st century and beyond." 

The museum event is free and open to the public. Several Kansas City students featured in these pictures (along with their families and teachers) will be in the audience to see the film and take part in the Q&A. Grab your free ticket here, and join us!

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