They may be bright and smart, but with so many interruptions in their lives, it’s essential that migrant students catch up in summer school in order to be on the same level as their classmates.
Although English is not his first language, sixth grader Van Thang seems to be bright and articulate. He loves to learn and wants to become a doctor.
There are gaps in his education, like there are with so many migrant students. There are terms he has never been taught, and he struggles to understand some words.
Thang attends Hickory Hills Elementary and Middle School and is 11 years old. “I want to be a doctor because I really like helping people,” said Thang. “You probably need to be good at language, math, science and computers.”
It’s not uncommon for migrant children to lose months, if not years, of learning because of living in refugee camps or moving around as their parents search for work. Migrant work is heavily tied to agriculture, which is seasonal. It looks a little different in the Ozarks, often referring to families who move here to work at processing plants.
A growing migrant population — more than 60 children were identified this spring — spurred Springfield Public Schools to offer, for the first time, a summer school aimed at filling in critical academic gaps for those students. It is paid for with federal funds and will run through July.
“They come to us with limited formal education and limited literacy in the home,” said Andrea Hellman, an instructor of childhood education and family studies at Missouri State University, who serves as an instructional coach for the program. “Some of them have spent years in refugee camps.”
Nearly all of the 50 students enrolled in the summer school originated from Southeast Asia, including the countries of Myanmar and Malaysia, while others are Hispanic or Russian.