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Woman wants to develop school to help immigrants, refugees

Morgan Aguilar
December 01, 2017 06:32 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An Albuquerque woman who works with immigrant and refugee families on a daily basis is trying to fix a disturbing trend.

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Nkazi Sinandile works with several nonprofits, resettling organizations and the City of Albuquerque’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. She said she’s fed up with meeting children who are falling behind in school.

“Some of them are not reading, you know, on their grade levels and so that's been bugging me for five years already,” Sinandile said.

She said without one-on-one tutoring, those students are set up for failure.

“The kids who've been in the schools, they get passed on from grade to grade even though they fail. Then, when they graduate and they apply at CNM or UNM, they can't make it,” she said. “They drop out.”

Parents of these students often have no idea their child is behind because they can’t speak or read English, either.

"Ninty percent of their parents that come from the Middle East, Africa or Latin America – they don't speak English. They've never been to school,” Sinandile said.

Sinandile said she worries if something isn’t done soon, the entire community will be impacted by children headed for a life of poverty and crime. However, she has an idea about what could stop that cycle.

"This building is big enough to house a charter school," Sinandile said while gazing around the new building she and her husband recently purchased.

The property near Central and Louisiana needs some work, but there is plenty of space for parking and a future playground. It’s Sinandile’s hope that someday this will be the location of a charter school specifically for immigrant and refugee children.

“Then they'll have a fresh start with the community rallying around them and the teachers would be trained to teach them, giving them the best they need to have them adjust and then do well in school,” Sinandile said.

As an initial step toward achieving her goal, Sinandile is organizing a holiday party with a purpose. More than 100 immigrant and refugee students she works with have been invited – their ages ranging 12 to 19 – to bring their backpacks to the party, where they will sit down with a trained volunteer.

"The person helping them will ask them to read, to see how they are reading and then they'll document that."

They will use the results of the assessments to make a case that these kids need their own school. Sinandile said she will use the data to explain that need to city, county and state leaders in the future.

She’d also like to start one-on-one tutoring right away for the students who need it.

As an incentive for the students bringing their books to a party, she’s hoping community members will help them provide coats and gift cards to the students who attend and agree to the assessment.

"I want them to feel like, ‘Yeah, we took our backpacks to the party for a reason,’” she said.

Sinandile is asking the public to donate warm coats and money so they can provide the children with gift cards so they can buy themselves a present this holiday season.

Credits

Morgan Aguilar

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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