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November 29, 2005

Refugee videos receive Insight Awards

Springfield, Ill. - Recently the Illinois Refugee Children School Impact Grant partnership (RCSIG), an ongoing collaborative effort by the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Human Services and Chicago Public Schools to provide academic and related supportive educational and social services to refugee children, helped create several videos recently in order to make possible the integration of refugees into the classroom through bilingual education.

Two of these refugee videos were honored with the Insight Award. The Insight Awards are given to directors, editors and cinematographers whose work delivers a message or creates some kind of social or political awareness. The two refugee videos that the Illinois State Board of Education helped to develop were submitted by the director, Stanley Majka, at Beach Productions Ltd. Stanley Majka, the award winning writer and director, has been making documentary films focusing on topics such as public education, substance abuse and hunger throughout his career. This director is interested in telling the untold stories of other people who are helping make a difference.

The first video, entitled In Our Country: Educating Newcomers in America, was designed to help integrate refugee children and parents into Illinois Schools. In this video, refugees share their stories and viewpoints of first days in American schools and learning strategies that are necessary in order to succeed in the classroom. American students watching the video will get a new appreciation of what it means to make a home in a new world of school and life. Newly enrolled refugee students will be able to see and hear what they face as their school year begins.

The second video, entitled Welcoming New Learners: A Professional Developmental Tool, was meant to help teach teachers, social service agencies and administrators of programs on how to handle refugees and immigrants in a bilingual educational atmosphere. In this video refugee families and school staff share the rewards and obstacles that newcomers encounter when entering the United States school systems for the first time. They reflect on their own experiences and the successful ways they were able to help one another make the transition from one culture to another.

Bilingual education makes up an important part of today’s educational system. With one in five K-12 students being a child of immigrants, it is important that the Illinois State Board Of Education do everything possible to help these K-12 refugee students adapt to their schools and communities. These refugees, who are individuals who have fled their homelands and cannot return, based on well-founded fear of persecution due to religious, political or other social affiliation, have come to America without knowledge of English or understanding of American culture.

In order to make bilingual education more effective, school personnel and refugees must understand one another and that is why these two award winning refugee videos prove to be so helpful.

Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777