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District embraces educating refugees

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 7:21 p.m.

DAYTON, Ohio — Dayton Public Schools is appealing for volunteers so that students who left troubled homelands can get some extra help.

The Dayton Daily News reports that the district has about 25 volunteer mentors but seeks more, with 105 student refugees eligible for help through a federally subsidized program.

Those who want to become mentors are provided training in teaching English as a second language and literacy. They also must take “Refugee 101,” a class provided by Catholic Social Services.

Twenty of the 105 refugees are from Iraq, and most others are from African nations. They fled wars and persecutions, and students have been out of school for long periods because of turmoil.

Regan Twite, a Belmont High School junior, said that until three years ago, his family was often on the move. From the Democratic Republic of Congo, the family stayed in a refugee camp and then spent 10 years in a Zambia resettlement program before landing in Dayton.

“Many kids come like in Regan's situation, where they missed school for a number of years,” said Teresa Troyer, the district's English as a second language coordinator. “So the faster they can get access to the content, the faster they can catch up academically.”

Volunteer mentor Melissa Bertolo works with Twite, helping him with English at his family's apartment.

“The amount of impact someone can have on someone's life is really important,” said Bertolo, citing the amount of progress students have made.

She heads the Welcome Dayton initiative to help the city be immigrant-friendly.

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