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State, City providing resources to migrant students in Everett schools

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By Neil Zolot


They’re visible, yet invisible, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten and on people’s radar, yet below it. Of the 249 homeless students in Everett, 52 are classified as migrants, essentially immigrants who have not found permanent housing. Mainly from Latin America, many are living in hotels and shelters, some with extended family.

“Just finding a permanent place to live is hard for migrants, especially when they don’t have enough money to get an apartment,” Antonio Amaya, founder and director of La Comunidad, a nonprofit organization that provides support for the local Latino-American community, said. “It takes time to get adapted to the system. If you’re in a hotel and your kids are going to school, I think it’s much harder because there isn’t a steady address. The children also have to adapt from another country, which can be difficult because of differences in the language used and the weather.”

They also have to re-readjust if permanent or semipermanent housing is found in another community.

The influx of students is not a problem, but is an issue. Everett receives $104 per day for every student through the state Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). “No community wants to add students, but it happens all the time,” Eliot Family Resource Center Director of Community Engagement Liliana Patino pointed out. “Everett was lucky in being able to handle this from the beginning of the school year.”

Both the International Institute of New England and International Catholic Migration Commission define a migrant as someone moving within a country or internationally, usually for economic reasons (i.e., a job) without necessarily intending to stay in their new location. An immigrant is defined as someone moving from one country to another to resettle. In many cases “migrants” resettle permanently and become “immigrants.” An emigrant describes an immigrant from the perspective of the country they are leaving. People emigrate from one country and immigrate to another. Students and families moving out of Everett and into temporary housing in another community may continue to attend school here or transfer. If they relocate into permanent housing in another community, they must transfer.

Except for the indigenous people of the continent and their descendants, everyone is an immigrant or descendent of one, although even they may have emigrated from Asia countless years ago across the Bering Sea land bridge to North America. President John F. Kennedy wrote a book titled “A Nation of Immigrants.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “All of us are descended from immigrants.”

There are resources for students and their families. The Massachusetts Migrant Education Program is a federally funded program of the Massachusetts DESE with an office in Chelsea. It provides supplemental educational opportunities to the children of migratory agricultural workers and migratory fishermen, and out of school youth. The program serves “migratory students/youth” who reside in over 30 communities located throughout the Commonwealth. The program’s major components include regional family support projects that provide migrant students with extended learning opportunities, such as homework assistance and tutoring, educational programs for out-of-school youth, parent empowerment and family literacy services, student and family advocacy, outreach and recruitment services and summer services that provide language development instruction and academic enrichment over six weeks.

Locally, there is a school Parent Resource Center. “We work with them to get all the necessary information to register students in school,” Community Engagement Manager Jeanette Velez explained. “We also provide them with local resources to help them address any basic needs and are fortunate to have a bi-lingual staff that makes families feel comfortable.”

Support is also available through the Eliot Center. “A school system has to provide education and Everett has done an amazing job,” Patino said. “We’re trying to supplement that. We help provide clothing and school supplies. We teach the different aspects of attending school and help parents understand how the system works. We also put families in touch with medical providers.”

“Our teachers, staff and administrators are tireless advocates for all students under all circumstances,” School Committee Chairperson Jeanne Cristiano said. “The district is honored to join the Commonwealth and the city government in assisting these students and families in their pursuit of the American dream.”

State Senator Sal DiDomenico reported the legislature is “working on this every day to make sure people have options for housing. It’s a big topic of conversation at the State House.”

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