Posted on September 27, 2016
Oakland International High School (OIHS) is a full service community school in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) that is uniquely designed to provide a high quality college preparatory education and crucial social services to late-arrival English Learner high school students and their families. Since opening its doors in 2007, Oakland International High School has become a central hub of quality and reliable educational support for the OUSD’s diverse immigrant and refugee students. OIHS serves approximately 400 students from more than 28 countries; nearly a third of OIHS students are refugees, and approximately 25% of students are unaccompanied minors from Central America. The OUSD is using the OIHS’s excellent work with newcomer students and families, particularly with unaccompanied children and socially and linguistically isolated groups, as a district-wide model as it expands its newcomer programs and services.
The Family Resource Center (FRC) is a dedicated space on the OIHS campus that provides a broad range of co-located social services, information and referral for community resources, adult education, and family engagement opportunities that collectively support the successful integration of students and families. FRC staff members cultivate and maintain organizational partnerships that bring tremendous resources to OIHS families, such as monthly food bank distribution, ESL classes, immigration legal clinics, mental health services, health care for students, and a social worker. They also recruit and coordinate the efforts of more than 60 volunteers a year from neighboring universities, faith groups and neighborhood associations.
Education is a top priority for most immigrant and refugee families, but they often encounter a myriad of obstacles as they begin to establish themselves into their new communities, including language access problems, lack of familiarity with local school systems and cultural norms, and extreme poverty. These challenges are most pronounced for immigrant students entering school at the secondary level, where schools are often ill-equipped to serve the late entrant population, and where students have a short amount of time to acquire the academic and linguistic skills necessary to complete their education and go on to college. School-based family resource centers, working in collaboration with nonprofit organizations and public agencies, can help ease the transition of newcomer families into local communities and help to reinforce family relationships that are frequently endangered by the pressures of adapting to life in a new country.