Since the spring of 2022, nearly 32,000 migrants have come to New York City, fleeing the violence and devastation of their home countries for the safety and opportunity of the sanctuary city. Mayor Eric Adams has described the situation as a humanitarian crisis, in which “thousands of asylum seekers have been bused into New York City and simply dropped off, without notice, coordination, or care.” The city has answered with welcome centers, housing and health care, but its shelter system is severely strained, budgets are drained, and schools are overwhelmed. One community school served by Wediko NY has seen an influx of 115 new students within a matter of weeks.
“Schools serve as an entry point for many new arrivals,” explains Director Richard Negron. The Home’s unique position within schools allows us to identify and better serve children who may be struggling to process transitions, trauma or both. Claudia*, an incoming ninth grader from South America, came to NYC this summer, before the recent waves, but her story speaks volumes about the power of in-school intervention.
“There’s so much more we need to do. We’re exhausting our resources and the year has just begun,” says Rochard. “So, we need donations, clothing, food and funds to ideally expand some of the direct services, such as mental health and after-school programming.”
Claudia left her home, mother and friends for a new life in the U.S. with her father, stepmother and grandmother. Upon her arrival, she came to Cobble Hill High School to enroll for the fall. Our staff was there, and extended an invitation to Claudia to participate in a ninth-grade transition program to help her acclimate to city and school life. Claudia accepted and came to Cobble Hill four hours a day for two weeks, while her stepmom waited on-site for her. During that time, our staff learned that Claudia was processing more than a new country, language and educational system, she was also reeling from the death of a close sibling who was killed before her eyes, just before she left.
Knowing that information, our professionals provided individual counseling for Claudia and stayed in contact all summer. In the fall, we continued that mental health support and enrolled her in a culinary arts program so she’d meet other students, as well as a conversational English class. “Because we are actively involved in the day-to-day work of school, we were able to respond to Claudia’s needs, and she had access to our comprehensive services,” says Richard. At last count, there are 350 new students in our community schools in need of similar supports and services. “How do we help another 350 kids?” asks Richard. “That’s our struggle.”
The student’s name has been changed for privacy.