Camden schools back undocumented students with new nonprofit partnership
Immschools will provide resources and training to teachers in the district and work directly with its immigrant students and their families.
On Sept. 30, Camden City School District took a huge step forward in helping its undocumented students and families in what has been a tumultuous time for schools across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic’s persistence.
Camden has also entered rare territory on a national scale, as it will be the fourth locale in the U.S. to work alongside the education nonprofit, Immschools, to help foster a more safe and welcoming environment in its public schools for its undocumented students.
The move comes as Immschools received a grant from the Camden Education Fund to expand its services in the city.
Across New Jersey, there 43,000 undocumented students enrolled in K-12 schools and one in 11 live with undocumented parents, according to a press release from Immschools about the Camden partnership.
The effort on the city’s side was led by Camden City school board member, Falio Leyba-Martinez. He started the process back in May 2020, when he introduced a Safe Zone resolution that makes it explicit that faculty in the district do not have to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement on school grounds.
“I’m proud to be able to use my position as a board member to push city schools to become more inclusive spaces for all students. The stakes are high to get this right because the undocumented population is so vulnerable,” said Leyba-Martinez.
COVID-19 and all its challenges aside, Leyba-Martinez also mentioned over phone to AL DÍA that while the graduation rate has gone up among Camden’s immigrant population over the last couple years, it hasn’t translated into more of those immigrant students going to college.
Immschools has programming to address the issue.
Founded in 2017 by three formerly undocumented immigrants, the nonprofit leads workshops for professional development that are immigrant centered and helps organize immigrant-friendly school district policies.
There are eight to 10 sessions planned with Camden schools this year that begin in October. They will touch upon creating a safe school environment for undocumented students, culturally responsive practices and curriculum, college access for undocumented, among other topics.
The workshops are open to district charter and renaissance schools and will be funded by the Camden Education Fund.
Immschools’ partnership with Camden is the organization’s first in New Jersey. It’s previous partnerships were with locales in New York and Texas.
The hope is that Camden can be the spark to get other school districts in the state to hop on the Immschools bandwagon in the coming years.
“I am confident that Camden will soon be an exemplar for how schools can best support their immigrant students,” said Leyba-Martinez.