Newcomer Welcome Kits

Project Blueprint

Sarah Reeves, Bayless School District, St. Louis, Missouri

The welcome kits are part of the process of making a safe and inviting atmosphere for newcomer refugee families. These kits include materials that illustrate how educators thought about what supplies and information may help families feel included at school and express concern for children's social and academic adjustment and success. Kits like these can be vital not just for their practical utility, but also for conveying to refugee families the school's commitment to care for them and help them feel a sense of belonging and inclusion.

Goals

The primary goal of the project is to help families feel welcome. The secondary goal is to prepare school staff and educators to anticipate the challenges of newcomer refugee families and facilitate the start of two-way communication between educators and the new families.

Timeline

September

  • Meet with ELL Department about EL family information night.
  • Plan out the information to be shared, order interpreters, recruit childcare volunteers, and decide on a time and the food that would be served.
  • Have interpreters for every family that responds to the invitation.
  • Engage educators to brainstorm about supplies for the welcome kits by anticipating physical and social needs: e.g., school supplies, spirit wear, translated items, useful information, community connections, communication tools.
  • Create spreadsheet of the kit items so they can be easily re-ordered when needed.
  • Work with advanced language students to write personal welcome letters in English and other languages as an in-class assignment to include in personal notes and peer advice in the welcome kits.

October

  • Collect items and create materials.
  • Submit a list of documents to be translated.
  • Update information on EL website. Ensure that the information is in comprehensible form.
  • Print interpreter cards.
  • Print welcome flyers with a QR code to the EL website in English and relevant languages. The QR code will take families to the EL website where the page can be translated as needed.  
  • Assemble extra welcome kits for new families that arrive later during the school year.

November

  • Assemble and distribute the newcomer welcome kits (during conferences or upon enrollment). Additional items to include: a map of the school, contact numbers for all building offices, and student technology cards.
  • Sell T-shirts to faculty and staff and then use the proceeds toward funding additional newcomer welcome kit backpacks.

December

  • Prepare for newcomers enrolling at the semester break.
  • Collect pictures and documents for program review and website. 

Step-By-Step Plan to Support Multiliteracy

Meet the families and put them into contact with interpreters at a time that is convenient to each family.

Learn common greetings, observe cultural body language protocols (for example, women do not shake hands with men, etc.), and plan for important religious holidays.

Add new languages and flags to existing murals around the school.

Encourage all student organizations to translate their advertisements.

Add translations, holidays, and artwork to school social media accounts.

Invite families to be a part of videos for the EL website.

Gather information about the number of enrolled newcomers.

Decide: needs already known, where the kits will be stored, who will disburse the kits, how to track which families have received kits.

Finalize needs list for welcome kit. Request funding.

Identify and translate important information. Add images for comprehensible input.

Make website public. Add QR code.

Purchase/obtain materials.

Assemble kits.

Disperse kits to new families.

Create a plan to make these kits fit within a long-term initiative for ongoing communication with refugee families.

Budget

School backpacks in black    625.00
Picture dictionaries, printable, bundle      44.00
Bayless lanyard      70.00
Folders, 25 pack      20.00
Mechanical pencils, 24 pack        6.00
Interpreter cards, printed, laminated Provided by district
Document printing* Provided by district
Document translation Provided by district
Bayless spirit wear, 25, sizes S, M, L, XL    450.00
TOTAL 1,215.00

* Documents: QR code for website, bus information, welcome letter, parents' rights, FAQ 

Sustainability

Use Title III funds and other district funds to purchase supplies for the welcome kits.

Establish partnerships with community partners who may be willing to donate supplies.

Documents can be easily translated in a way that allows for quick updating year-to-year. A variety of flyers now exist in translated versions.

The EL program website can be updated in-the-moment.

All contents of the welcome kits can be adapted to any new CLD family.

Connect the kit assembly/updating process with staff training on new populations (e.g., home languages, cultural differences in perception and conduct, communication preferences and styles).

Invite CLD families to engage with activities of interest (e.g., help recruit volunteers for the multicultural fair).

All school sponsored information nights have in-person interpreters for all important information, including volunteer opportunities.

Who Has Done This Already?

Sarah Reeves is one of eight EL Specialists (under the program director) with Bayless Schools in St. Louis, Missouri. She teaches several classes at the junior high and high school, including the newcomer class. Her classes meet 55 minutes every day with one of her classes meeting as a double block for 110 minutes.

Although some of her students were born in the U.S., many have been here for less than a year. Languages spoken in her classrooms include Arabic, Bosnian, Dari, Kurdish, Nepali Pashto, Spanish/Castilian, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese. Her students’ home countries include Afghanistan, Bosnia, Honduras, Iraq, Mexico, Nepal, Syria Thailand, United States, and Vietnam.

This semester has come with a lot of professional challenges, from new classes to collaborating with new administrators who are new to working with English learners. It has been a pleasure to purposefully design an opportunity for my newest ELs and their families so they can belong to a new community and become involved in school in the USA.Sarah Reeves

What Did it Look Like?

Printable interpreter cards

I need an interpreter Bosnian Spanish Nepali Arabic

I need an interpreter Bosnian Spanish Nepali Arabic

I need an interpreter Pashto Vietnamese

I need an interpreter Pashto Vietnamese

QR code to program website

Spirit wear and backpack

Reflection on the Project

This family engagement project and implementation process has helped me learn two important things about my role and responsibilities when working with ELs and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CDL) families: ideas do not have to be complicated to be worthwhile and the focus should always remain on the needs of my learners and their families.

Although I believe my school district does a good job of engaging CLD families, I think there is always room for improvement. I originally pitched another engagement idea, but I learned that I was overlooking a simple and effective way to engage newcomer families: welcome kits.

While our district has tools and processes in place, this not-so-small gesture was absent. I have learned that part of advocating for my learners includes advocating and empowering their families. One of our district’s goals is to develop a newcomer center that serves newcomer students and their families. I am excited to have a tangible way to welcome the new EL students who will come to Bayless.

As I began conversations with the EL team, my colleagues, and administrators about the needs of our ELs, a common theme was that many people did not know if our newcomer students and families were receiving the information published by the school. After a little investigating, I realized this is because our registration process is completely online, and many families do not have advanced enough literacy in any language to properly fill out the forms and request the translated documents or interpreters they need. This information prompted me to make a bilingual interpreter request card. With simple sentences and phrases, most students and families would be able to recognize the use of the card through their home language while also communicating easily with a person who does not share their language. Further, I learned that living, digital documents could be a great resource for families who rely on text-to-speech technology.

Moreover, I learned that simple things can be effective. When I handed out the backpacks, I remembered what joy a small gift could bring. My students and families were excited about the information, but the backpacks, T-shirts, and Bayless gear were not-so-small ways for students to feel included. I have noticed each of the students have worn their new shirts, backpacks, and lanyards each week and I have witnessed the numerous conversations my newcomers have had with peers over the languages displayed on their shirts. It has been a wonderful point of connection. This has led me to several thoughts moving forward: how can our current engagement be improved to better serve our CDL families and how can I continue to sustain this project? I feel confident that with the reflection and communication skills I honed during this project, I will be able to continue meaningful, equitable family engagement in the future.


The newcomer welcome kits at Bayless School District were sponsored by the iELT-Ozarks project at Missouri State University; the budget was supported with federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education Office of English Language Acquisition.

Newcomer Welcome Kits

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