Granite School District helps refugees get ready for new school year

Posted at 9:39 PM, Aug 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-14 23:39:13-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY -- With a new school year just around the corner, one district is reaching out to thousands of refugee families.

The Granite School District wants to make the back to school process easier for students and their parents, and they are working to help Utah’s 60,000 refugees feel right at home.

“I think a lot of people don’t recognize the difficulty it is to come not only to America, but go to a school system when you may or may not have had any formal education at all,” said Ben Horsley, a spokesman for Granite School District.

Nearly 70 percent of the state's refugees live within Granite School District’s boundaries. This week was the 3rd annual Refugee Outreach Night, where more than 100 volunteers, including 20 translators, helped kids register for school.

The event included something for parents, too.

“Immunization clinics and other resources to help parents get health care for their kids,” Horsley said.  "Legal resources for families who are trying to acclimate themselves and potentially gain asylum here in the country, things of that nature."

School administrators say the families come from many different backgrounds, but the district wants everyone to start off on the right foot.

“Some come with a huge amount of knowledge and skills, some come with not even knowing how to hold a pencil,” said Amy Harmer with Utah Refugee Connection. “So you can't stereotype any of them, because they are all so different, but they are beautiful, amazing, resilient people.”

For the refugees, the show of community support means the world.

“We are so, so thankful and grateful—especially when only we moved to Utah, many people just showed us love, care—which are the most important things to show the refugees,” Fiston Mwesige, a refugee from Congo, said.

Administrators and refugees alike hope the outreach can encourage students to excel in school.

“We have many success stories of refugees who have worked hard, committed themselves, made it to college and beyond and done some great things,” Horsley said.

If you want to help these families, the Utah Refugee Connection Organization suggests you download the app called "Serve Refugees,” where you can donate money or join projects to volunteer your time.

Click the links below to download the app:

Serve Refugees on iTunes 
Serve Refugees on Google Play Store