Crockett Elementary School, located in the Balsz School District, has quickly gained a reputation among refugee and minority families. Today, the school rings with the sound of 17 languages spoken in its halls.
Arizona has been home to over 60,000 refugees in the last four decades. Nearly 2,000 have come to the state in the last two years alone. Half of the relocated refugees in Phoenix are children. Many families are drawn to Balsz School District because of the government subsidized housing within its boundaries. Crockett Elementary’s popularity grew through word of mouth and now serves children from all over the world.
“[The students] don’t see a student in a hijab or they don’t see a Hispanic student as someone who looks different than them. They just think, ‘That’s just my friend.’ The bigger piece I think is the processes we put out to the community and the parents,” Crockett Elementary School principal Sean Hannafin says.
The school practices mindfulness movements throughout the day to help the students deal with change, stress and it’s a way to bring them together. Hannafin says it’s about recentering yourself so you’re more comfortable with your surroundings.
“Getting to know more about the culture of the students and where they come from and why they come here was key,” Hannafin says. “Once we did that, it was kind of easy for us to get together as a group of teachers and talk about what would be best for the students.”
Josh Meibos is a P.E. teacher at the elementary school and recently was named Arizona Teacher of the Year. He has developed ways to help encourage the kids to be who they are and accept one another.
“One thing I’ve done specifically in my physical education classes is when we do calisthenics, we count in different languages to acknowledge that everyone is unique, every is different and everyone is valued the same,” Meibos says.
Related: P.E. instructor Josh Meibos wins 2018 Arizona Teacher of the Year
The parents have started to become more involved in the school as well. There’s a relatively new Parent-Teacher Organization that has been successful in creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for families. There are mingling events for parents to discuss how to keep their kids safe. Crockett even offers English classes for the parents.
TED SIMONS: ACCORDING TO THE INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE OVER 60,000 REFUGEES MADE ARIZONA THEIR HOME IN THE PAST 40 YEARS CLOSE TO 2000 REFUGEES HAVE ARRIVED IN JUST THE PAST TWO YEARS, ONE PHOENIX SCHOOL DISTRICT SEEMS TO BE IN THE EPICENTER WHERE REFUGEES HAVE SETTLED AND VANESSA RUIZ VISITED
VANESSA RUIZ: YOU ARE RIGHT AND HALF OF THE RELOCATED REFUGEES IN PHOENIX ARE SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN AND MANY OF THE REFUGEE FAMILIES ENDED UP IN THIS PARTICULAR SCHOOL DISTRICT BECAUSE OF THE GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZED HOUSING LOCATED WITHIN ITS BOUNDARIES BUT NOW WORD OF MOUTH AND ALSO REPUTATION HAS FAMILIES SEEKING OUT THE DISTRICT AS A PLACE WHERE KIDS FROM ALL BACKGROUNDS ARE WELCOME. I VISITED CROCKETT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WITH VIDEOGRAPHER JUAN MAGANA AND MARIA PORTILLO FOR A CLOSER LOOK.
***NAT POP*** LET'S GET INTO OUR POSITION.
REPORTER: THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT FROM A TYPICAL FOURTH GRADE CLASS BUT CROCKETT ELEMENTARY IS NOT A TYPICAL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
SOT: IT'S AMAZING HOW RESILIENT THE STUDENTS ARE.
REPORTER: THE SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS ALWAYS BEEN DEVERSE IN RECENT YEARS THE DEMOGRAPHICS HAVE BEEN CHANGING AS REFUGEES FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD HAVE SETTLED IN THIS SMALL POCKET OF PHOENIX
SOT: SO WE AT THIS POINT HAVE 17 DIFFERENT LANGUAGES SPOKEN OUR CAMPUS.
REPORTER: DESPITE THE DIVERSITY OR MAYBE BECAUSE OF IT HERE THEY SHARE A SILENT UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE THAT COMES FROM LISTENING.
SOT: FOR US IT WAS GETTING TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE CULTURE OF THE STUDENTS AND WHERE THEY COME FROM AND WHY THEY COME, ONCE WE STARTED TO DO THAT IT WAS EASY FOR US TO KIND OF GET TOGETHER AS A GROUP OF TEACHERS AND SAY WHAT WOULD BE BEST FOR THE STUDENTS IN THESE CLASSROOMS
REPORTER: THE PRINCIPAL HANNAFIN SAYS THEY STARTED MOMENTS TO DEAL WITH CHANGE, STRESS AND HELP BRING THEM TOGETHER.
SOT: IT'S REALLY ABOUT KIND OF RE CENTERING AND INSTEAD OF GETTING TROUBLE AND GOING TO A TIME OUT.
REPORTER: JOSH MEIBOS WHO TEACHES AT CROCKETT HIS RESPONSIBILITY IS TO MAKE HIS CLASSROOM AN INCLUSIVE SPACE.
SOT: ONE THING THAT PUSHED ME WAS TO HELP THEM EMPOWER THEMSELVES OF WHO THEY REALLY ARE. I THINK IT HELPS YOU REFLECT A LITTLE BIT THAT THESE PARENTS, WHATEVER BACKGROUND THEY HAVE, WHAT EVER CULTURES THEY COME FROM ARE AMERICAN FAMILIES AND THESE ARE AMERICAN KIDS.
REPORTER: AND THE APPROACH TO INCLUSIVITY CAN BE UNORTHODOX.
SOT: ONE THING I HAVE DONE SPECIFICALLY IN MY PHYSICAL EDUCATION CLASSES IS WHEN WE DO CALISTHENICS WE COUNT IN DIFFERENT LANGUAGES AND TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT AND BE PROUD THAT EVERYBODY IS UNIQUE, EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT AND EVERYONE IS VALUED THE SAME.
REPORTER: AND THE STUDENTS ARE PROUD OF THEIR DIVERSE SCHOOL
SOT: CROCKETT IS A KID FROM PAKISTAN, IRAQ, AFRICA, LIKE SOUTH AMERICA.
SOT: THERE IS SOMEONE FROM HONG KONG HERE.
REPORTER: SIXTH GRADER JACQUELINE UWRINGGIYMNA HAS BEEN TO OTHER SCHOOLS WHERE THE EXPERIENCE WAS VERY DIFFERENT
SOT: WHEN SOMEONE ASKED ME TO SAY SOMETHING IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE IT MAKES ME PROUD FOR BEING WHO I AM BECAUSE THAT TELLS ME PEOPLE CARE ABOUT WHERE I'M FROM AND MOST OF THE TIME IT'S LIKE WITH OTHER SCHOOLS I NEVER GOT ASKED HOW DO YOU SAY THIS OR SAY THAT. IT WAS LIKE YOU'RE DIFFERENT FROM US SO YOU CAN'T REALLY BE LIKE US.
REPORTER: PRINCIPAL HANNAFIN SAYS THE DIFFERENCES ARE PRACTICALLY INVISIBLE TO THE KIDS
SOT: I THINK BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN TOGETHER FOR SUCH A LONG TIME AND STARTED KINDERGARTEN AND DON'T SEE A STUDENT IN A JOB OR HISPANIC STUDENT WHO LOOKS DIFFERENT FROM THEM THAT IS JUST MY FRIEND AND THE PROCESS WE PUT OUT TO THE COMMUNITY AND THE PARENTS AS WELL ON HOW TO BECOME INVOLVED IN THE SCHOOL.
REPORTER: GETTING THE PARENTS TO BUY IN IS A HUGE PART OF CROCKETT'S SUCCESS, WITH SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS LETTING THEM KNOW THEY EMBRACE ALL OF THEIR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS.
SOT: IT IS GOOD BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE RESPECT STARTS AND ALTHOUGH WE ARE NOT THE SAME AT THE END OF THE DAY WE NEED TO BE TOGETHER TO BE STRONGER
REPORTER: THE SCHOOL OFFERS PROGRAMS AND RESOURCES JUST FOR PARENTS.
SOT: A TEACHER CAME AND SHE GAVE US ENGLISH CLASSES EVERY 15 DAYS EVERY MONDAY THEN ANOTHER PROGRAM WAS SOMETHING WHERE YOU PUT COFFEE OUT AND PASTRIES SO PARENTS CAN MINGLE AND TALK HOW TO KEEP KIDS SAFE FROM THE INTERNET, PRESCRIPTION DRUGS AND BEING OUT OF THEIR HANDS.
REPORTER: THE MESSAGE WHICH SEEMS TO BE GETTING THROUGH IS EVERYONE, PARENTS, TEACHERS AND STUDENTS SHARE SIMILAR GOALS TO SEE THESE KIDS BE SUCCESSFUL.
SOT: FOR US TO SURVIVE AS A SCHOOL WE NEED NEW FAMILIES AND NEED NEW IDEAS, WE NEED THOUGHT PROCESSES THAT ARE SOMETIMES DIFFERENT THAN OUR OWN TO KIND OF CHALLENGE WHAT WE DO AND SEE IF IT'S STILL THE BEST THING FOR THE STUDENTS
REPORTER: AFTER THIS MINDFUL MOMENT THESE KIDS FEEL RELAXED, CALM AND CONNECTED. AS THEY HAVE SHARED AN APPRECIATION OF A SIMPLE TASK TOGETHER.
VANESSA RUIZ: THE PARENT TEACHER ORGANIZATION AT CROCKETT ELEMENTARY IS STILL RELATIVELY NEW BUT SCHOOL OFFICIALS SAY IT'S ALREADY MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE ONCE AGAIN SHOWING THAT PARENT INVOLVEMENT IS CRUCIAL TO THE EDUCATIONAL SUCCESS OF ANY CHILD
Vanessa Ruiz: Arizona PBS
Sean Hannafin: Principal, Crockett Elementary School
Josh Meibos: AZ Teacher of the Year, Crockett Elementary School
Jacqueline Uwringgiymna: Sixth Grade, Crocket Elementary
Alma Hernandez: PTO President, Crockett Elementary