The Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Virginia discusses the SALaMA study in Harrisonburg and the impact it has had on Harrisonburg Public Schools and attending MENA students.
Immigrant and refugee students resettling in the U.S. from countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region must navigate a new public education system alongside stressors such as forced migration, family separation and discrimination. What role do schools themselves play in supporting the wellbeing of these students and reducing the inequities that they face? Our team from the Study of Adolescent Lives after Migration to America (SALaMA) sought to explore this question and, as we gathered more evidence, one thing became clear: language learning and language preservation were integral aspects of the acculturation process for Arabic-speaking newcomer students and their communities.
The U.S. is currently resettling more than 55,000 Afghans, with an additional 125,000 refugees from around the world expected to arrive by the end of next year. Because a large proportion of newcomers are school-aged children, American schools will be essential in welcoming these newcomers, as we have learned as public health researchers studying the adjustment and wellbeing of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.
With schools across the country preparing for these new arrivals amid continued fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, we share key insights we have learned from speaking with hundreds of high school students and family members, school faculty and staff, district leaders, and civil society representatives over the past four years.
Although our participants in Detroit; Chicago; Harrisonburg, Va.; and Austin, Texas, were from Arab-majority countries such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon—countries with vastly different historical, cultural and sociopolitical contexts from Afghanistan—what we have learned may be useful to educators eager to welcome newcomers fleeing the fallout of U.S. wars overseas.