Gurrie Middle School hosts migrant students

Venezuelan children adjust to new location, suburbs, style of schools.

Maddie Gee, News Editor, Multimedia Editor

Two new migrant students attended their first day of school on Sept. 19 at Gurrie Middle School (GMS) District 105 in La Grange. Overall, 17 of the 40 migrants that recently traveled to the suburban area of Chicago began school across the entire District 105 on the same day. 

The majority of all District 105 students are from the communities of Countryside, Hodgkins, and the southern portion of La Grange. Despite the controversy in the current migration policy, no new adaptation program in education was needed, GMS Principal Ed Hood said.

“The community has been very supportive,” Hood said. “Since we typically welcome students new to the country each year, we did not need to do anything different regarding helping other students adapt. Our students are very inclusive and have welcomed them.”

Nationwide, many Venezuelans have sought refuge in the United States, yet face the risk of being turned away at the southern border of Mexico under the Biden Administration. Recently, more than 900 Venezuelans arrived in Chicago from Texas-charted buses. 

“It comes back to ensuring your school is a welcoming place no matter what level,” said Brandon Lee, Director of Communications for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). “Acknowledging the diversity of your student body and of the experiences that the people went through to get here [is key].”

Regarding terminology, Venezuelan students and families are seeking asylum or refuge, as opposed to immigrants who work to achieve full citizenship. Controversy over migrants and immigration has recently arisen in Republican states, such as Florida and Texas. However, Illinois immigration laws tend to have more assistance available.

“As a state that has historically been welcoming. We have really taken this moment to live up to our values as much as we can,” Lee said. 

The ICIRR organization works to ensure equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of a diverse society, specifically in Illinois. 

“Many of the newly arriving families are receiving case management, handled by ICIRR’s partners in the Immigrant Family Resource Program,” Lee said. “We have played a role in recruiting volunteers, collecting donations, and advocating for resources to support migrants.”

A possible challenge at GMS includes a language barrier as the new students attend many classes with their grade-level peers. Although, these students are enrolled in the English Learner program as the Gurrie faculty has continued to provide any support needed. 

“This is an immediate, rapid response moment, and it’s something we’re pushing a long-term solution for,” Lee said. “Here in Illinois, that may mean pushing for policy changes and additional federal advocacy.”

Lee further clarified how residents in the state can advocate for immigrant and refugee rights. 

“All Illinoisans have a role to play in ensuring that everyone has the resources they need to thrive in our state,” he said. 

If these students continue their education to LT, the school is ready to provide guidance on classes and cater the curriculum toward the students, Bilingual Coordinator Julie Jacobo said.

“We’re eager and ready to work with [GMS] to welcome these students when they transition to make sure their needs are met.”