Earlier this week, Senator Reid Elementary hosted a Vaisaiki celebration with their high school LA Matheson as part of a pilot program they are doing with their school called "The Next 100 Years". They brought in a DJ and invited students from each grade level to come up to the front for a dance off. Naturally, the kids loved it!
However, for 9 Syrian refugee students who arrived just last week, the experience was a bit overwhelming at first and hard to for them to connect to. As one can expect, it would be rather intimidating for a new student - refugee or otherwise - to come to a different school where familiar faces would be few and far between. Add to this malaise is the fact that all the other students in the school are speaking in a different language and celebrating a cultural celebration that may be foreign to most Syrian-born students. Understandably, the Syrian refugee students were very shy and quiet, but soon this all changed.
One young, thoughtful student approached her teacher, Jennifer Jotie, and asked if they could play an Arabic song. Shortly thereafter, both the DJ and Punjabi teacher Gurpreet Bains found a song to play. According to Ms. Bains, what happened next melted her heart. Upon hearing the song in Arabic, the Syrian refugees came to the front and began dancing in front of the whole school to the applause and cheers of everyone present. Ms. Bains wrote: "[It was] so great to see these very new students all get up to dance in front of the school and be so excited about it. What a wonderful way to build community without a need to know English."
Senator Reid Elementary is expecting to welcome another three Syrian refugees this week.
BCATML thanks Gurpreet Bains for sharing this heart-warming story.
If your school is using culture to bridge the gap, we would love to hear about it.
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