In 2014, the former Refugee and Immigrant Support Services Committee re-formed itself as the Integration of International Families Alignment Team, and began its new journey by looking at the following key questions:
- How can we support the civic engagement of international families in Nashville?
- How can we support the development of a unified, effective way to address the linguistic needs of international families in Nashville?
- How can we support economic and financial literacy for international families in Nashville?
Understanding that many of the immediate, basic needs of recently resettled refugee or new immigrant families in Nashville are already being met by a wide swath of effective service organizations, the team realized there are other, subtler needs at play for many international families, such as job skill development, English comprehension for specific needs (such as legal or banking), and understanding/navigating the school system your child has entered.
The Integration of International Families A-Team has compiled this guide to assist MNPS staff, community organizations, and others in connecting international families to resources and services in Nashville including advocacy, counseling, food and nutrition services, citizenship and immigration, literacy and translation services, mentoring and youth programs, healthcare, cultural education, transitional housing, economic development, and more.
LEAF – Linking, Empowering, and Advancing Families – The teams first tactic was LEAF Nights – Linking, Empowering, and Advancing Families – is a two-generational collaborative community night that started at Wright Middle School to provide adult ESL classes, community workshops, and academic and enrichment opportunities for elementary and middle schools students, through partnering with over 50 community partners throughout Nashville since 2016. LEAF has expanded and is being offered at 2 locations: Goodlettsville Middle School and Antioch Middle Schools and is currently being sustained by the MNPS EL Department.
2018-2019 Exito and the Summer LEAF Pilot
In 2018 The Integration of International Families A-Team focused on ways to provide additional support to new arrivals at Overton High School. The Exito (Success) program, designed to provide additional support and reduce chronic absenteeism, paired over 20 students with bilingual community mentors and hosted weekly sessions on topics such as knowing resources in your school, goal setting, and communicating skills.
In 2018, the IIF A-Team in partnership with the EL department was awarded a 15k Spark grant by the Nashville Literacy Collaborative to support families of students at risk of being Long Term English Learners (LTEL). Through the grant, the team will be adopting the LEAF model to incorporate a coding curriculum for youth and a technology and workforce skills-based curriculum for adults to answer the question, “Does teaching literacy through technology-based curriculum lead to deeper and more complex language acquisition and skills proficiency for families of K-4 students at risk of LTEL?” The summer pilot will take place during June-July 2019 at Haywood Elementary.
Plan moving forward:
The IIF A-Team will use lessons learned from Exito and the Summer Leaf Pilot to inform how best to work with and support international families in the future. The team is also looking for additional members to serve on the IIF A-Team.
Integration of International Families Alignment Team
- Vanessa Lazon, Mayor’s Office of New Americans, Co-Chair
- Fabian Bedne, Hispanic Family Foundation
- Mariechelle Bonifacio, Metro Nashville Public Schools
- Becky Castillo, Metro Nashville Public Schools
- Ruben De Pena, Metro Nashville Public Schools
- Megan Godbey, Metro Nashville Public Library
- Jackie Gomez, Community Member
- Joe Gordon, Metro Nashville Public Schools
- Samantha Perez, Nashville Chamber of Commerce
- Sarah Imran, Metro Human Relations Commission
- Jill Pittman, Metro Nashville Public Schools
- Jo Ann Scalf, Nashville Public Television
- Molly Stovall, Metro Nashville Public Schools
- Brodrick Thomas, Trevecca Nazarene University
- Justin Uppinghouse, Metro Nashville Public Schools