Giving Compass' Take:

• At Patchogue-Medford High School in Long Island New York, the superintendent has made a concerted effort to support the immigrant student population. 

• How can donors help immigrants who are running from conflict and violence in their own countries? 

• Here are some lessons from public schools succeeding in helping immigrant students. 

Wilda Rosario’s support groups for immigrant students at Patchogue-Medford High School usually start out with lots of laughter. That’s just how teenagers are, she says. But it doesn’t take too long for conversations to turn serious with this group of kids, most of them children seeking asylum from violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

“I say to them, it doesn’t matter where you came from, it’s where you’re going,” says Rosario, a bilingual social worker who joined the Patchogue-Medford school district two years ago.

Since 2016, Rosario has run half a dozen counseling groups of about eight to ten kids. Other kids have tracked her down to talk after hearing from friends that she’s a sympathetic listener. She’s one of the reasons immigrant students smile when asked about their school. They call it calm, peaceful and supportive. It’s a refuge.

That’s not how many outsiders paint Patchogue. When politicians talk about Suffolk County — a mix of tony beach towns and working class hamlets like Patchogue on Long Island’s eastern half — it’s often to highlight the violence.

But away from the political debates and television lights, educators in the Patchogue-Medford school district have been quietly cultivating a different image. Instead of viewing immigrant students as a burden on already overwhelmed schools — or a security threat — a coalition of teachers and administration officials is trying to shift the narrative. They are building a haven for the hundreds of young people who have moved here in the last decade to join relatives and escape home countries like Honduras and El Salvador, which have the highest murder rates in the world.

Read the full article about embracing immigrant students by Sarah Garland at The Hechinger Report