IPS is proud to be public, and we are proud to welcome the
city’s newest residents to our schools! On Saturday, July 23, the Newcomer
Program — located in the Gambold Building, 3725 Kiel Ave. — will host an open
house from noon to 3 p.m. 


The Newcomer Program is designed to help refugee and
immigrant students, who know little to no English, thrive in the classroom. It’s
also focused on supporting the families who are adapting to their new
environment. This year, the program will accept students in Grades 7–9. To be
eligible, students must have arrived in the country within the last year. After
completing the yearlong program, students will be able to enroll at their
neighborhood IPS school or a magnet school.Jessica Feeser


“The purpose behind the program is to help students develop
foundational literacy skills while simultaneously learning the content that
they need in order to be prepared for high school,” said Jessica Feeser, English
as a Second Language (ESL) coordinator. “We want them to be able to learn to
read and write in English, but we also want to help them with the acculturation
process, so they understand what school is like in the United States.”


In 2017–18, the program will expand to accommodate students
in Grades 3–9. Students will have plenty of support getting acclimated to the
new way of learning. So far, the Newcomer Program has four instructors to teach
math, science, arts and social studies. There will also be a social worker,
counselor, program coordinator, an AmeriCorp Vista and ESL support including
two bilingual assistants.


The employee who, perhaps, knows better than anyone what the
kids are going through is Parent Involvement Educator Mastora Bakhiet, a
refugee born in Darfur.


“The moment I met her, I knew she would be perfect,”
explained Feeser. “She knows the experience of the families. “She’s all about
bringing different faiths together, so I think she will be an amazing asset to
this district. I’m so excited about her.”


Bakhiet understands the struggles of refugee families. When
she moved to the U.S. with school-aged children, she was unable to communicate
with teachers, bus drivers and other adults influencing her children. With the
help of an ESL teacher, she’s been able to succeed here in the U.S. In 2007, Bakhiet
founded the non-profit Darfur Women
, the only women’s organization based in the U.S. that is dedicated
to helping both Darfuri refugees residing within the U.S. and displaced women
and girls living in camps overseas.


So far, 50-60 students from several countries including
Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are
enrolled in the Newcomer Program. Community partners Catholic Charities
Indianapolis and Exodus Refugee Immigration, which provides refugee and
immigration services, plan to enroll more students in the next few weeks.
Ultimately, Feeser hopes to have 80 students in the first year.


During the 2015-16 school year, IPS served more than 4,300
students who were English learners. Catholic Charities Indianapolis projects
570 arrivals to the Indianapolis area in 2016, which is comparable to 2015’s
rate of 587.


“I think about my own children and how I send them to school
every day and how I can express what my concerns are and what I want for them,”
said Feeser. “So many of our families send their children to us; they send them
sort of blindly to us and have an immense amount of trust in us for doing the
right thing. We must create a program where families feel welcome – they know
that their children are going to get everything they need to be successful.”


For families who want to know more about the Newcomer
Program, contact Lydia Kelley at
or by calling 317.226.4765.