Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0206evrefugee06.html

Grant could offer tutors for 82 refugee students
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 6, 2004 12:00 AM
Joelle Babula

Gabriela Bolz, a refugee from Uruguay, has trouble helping her two young sons with homework because she can't speak English. Although the boys do get help from teachers during lunch and after school, they are still struggling to grasp the language and could use additional tutoring.

The boys, Dominic and Kevin, are not alone. More than 80 Tempe Elementary School District students are refugees from countries such as Iran, Bosnia, Romania, Afghanistan, Egypt and Somalia. The students speak 64 languages and often need extra help to keep up with their classmates, said Lucy Urias, interim director of the English Language Learning program for the school district.

School board members decided Wednesday to apply for a federal grant program to help students such as Dominic, 11, and Kevin, 9. The $11,000 grant would provide before- and after-school tutoring for all of the district's 82 refugee students.

The number of refugees in the district has increased in the past two years to 82 from 64, Urias said.

"This grant would allow us to provide additional tutoring, buy materials to help them learn English and provide emotional support," she said. "A lot of these kids have suffered emotional trauma. Arriving in a new land can be disconcerting."

Bolz, who has been in the country with her family for three years, said Dominic still has problems reading. She said both boys struggle with the language.

"It's hard," she said through a translator. "They are still below level, but they are progressing."

Dominic said that he has no problems speaking English, but that sometimes he gets confused while he's reading or taking a test.

"I get nervous because of a test," he said. "I'm afraid he will change the words, and I won't understand them."

Dominic's fifth-grade teacher, Mark Loose, said the refugee program would be a tremendous help for children such as Dominic. He said the boy takes advantage of every opportunity for extra help and tutoring.

"He comes in for help just about every lunch hour," Loose said. "He's about the nicest kid I've had in 15 years. He really wants to learn, and he just wants to fit in."

Board members should find out whether they will receive the grant money by the end of this month, Urias said. If they do, the program will be up and running within days.

"We already have teachers and other folks in place and ready to step in and help," she said.

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