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Refugees in Utica: Learning from and about the refugees

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - It really did take a village in the 1970s to help resettle the hundreds of refugees who started to make their way to Utica.  One institution that is said to have been instrumental then and still is today is the Utica City school district.

When Ah Bas, 11, came from Myanmar, he had a lot of catching up to do.  He had to learn English, how to read and write and toughen through the winters.

"In my country we don't have winter.  I thought snow was ice cream so I ate it," he said.

Ah Bas and hundreds of other students will go through English as a Second Language class, or ESL, to help them adapt to life in an American school.  It's up to the ESL teachers to bring them to a level where they can fully participate in everything at school.

Schools can also be a big resource for families.  Christopher Columbus Elementary School, for example, offers programs to help parents.

"The more the parents are involved the better.  It makes it harder when there are language barriers but we have so many people around who are willing to help, it has not been an issue whatsoever," said assistant principal Pearl Bowker.

 

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