FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Bridging the language barrier and so much more. That’s the mission of the Fort Wayne Community Schools Summer Immigrant and Refugee program. It is part of the FWCS English Language Learners program (ELL).
ELL helps families, who come from outside of the United States get acclimated into the system. “As part of the program we do supply books and games,” said ELL manager Emily Schwartz Keirns. “We started about four to five years ago. We have home visits with refugees families so they can be in a comfortable situation where they feel free to ask questions. We learn about their family and take them some materials and information about schools. Recently we expanded beyond those home visits with refugee families to work with other immigrant families.”
“We noticed that there were some families whose children were just sleeping on the floor,” said Steve Wolf, ELL teacher. “That’s when some of us decided to do more.”
Working with St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store in downtown Fort Wayne, Wolf and two interpreters joined forces to buy and deliver mattresses to these families. “We have partnerships with lots of folks like those in the Fort Wayne Community Schools Immigrant program,” said Tim Fagan, Manager at St. Vincent de Paul. “We work with many people to help enrich the lives of others.”
“FWCS does not pay for the mattresses,” said Wolf. “We’re going above and beyond. We pay for that out of our own pocket. Helping out people who are new to our country, letting them know that they’re welcome and we care about them and want them here.”
“Some staff members have taken it upon themselves to go above and beyond,” said Schwartz Keirns. “Wolf used his own money to purchase those mattresses.”
“The families, cannot believe it,” said Aura Cuevas, an ELL educator and interpreter. “They’re very grateful. They appreciate it very much.”
“Their faces light up and I think oh my God, I’m so happy for them you know,” said assistant ELL teacher and interpreter Thamay Paw. “I really appreciate this program. I wish I had this back when I first came here many years ago.”
You can find additional information about the ELL program on the FWCS website.