By Joe Cimperman
Aniya is smiling. We went to her classroom at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy in the heart of the MetroWest Neighborhood at West 46 and Clark Avenue. She is smiling because she met someone who not only speaks Turkish, but through the incredible providence and serendipity that is Cleveland she met a man who grew up in her village near the Turkish/Syrian border. This newfound friend, a guest of the German Marshall program through the incredible generosity of the Cleveland Foundation, was with Global Cleveland as we staffed one of a hundred introductions to this amazing Cleveland Metropolitan District school. This school is truly one of a kind, and we owe a debt of gratitude to CMSD for establishing it.
Started under the leadership of then Chief Academic Officer Eric Gordon (now our phenomenal superintendent and CEO of CMSD) Thomas Jefferson, TJINA, is a pre-eminent school of excellence for students pre-k through 12th grade who speak English as a second language (or not at all). Its enrollment is a barometer of Cleveland’s success attracting immigrants.
In August of 2016, 605 students were enrolled, coming from 30 nations, speaking 19 unique languages. By May of 2016, there were 990 students from over 40 nations, with an eye popping 31 languages spoken. The children at this school are smart, hard working, dedicated, and magical. The teachers and teacher’s aides and staff and Principal and Dean of Students are amazing as well. Why this school and the students and the surrounding community are so important is straightforward:
- Cleveland and Cuyahoga County continue to attract newcomers.
- CMSD is an amazing District with capacity and excellence to not only welcome these young leaders but to educate and integrate them.
- In spite of the false rhetoric and unhelpful national coarse discourse on immigrants and welcoming and refugees and visas, this school and these students prove that there is more light than smoke, and their becoming vital parts of Northeastern Ohio’s success are true, economic, and supportive of popular demographic trends.
Rich Exner, the demographics expert for The Plain Dealer, uncovered a startling fact recently: between 2005-2015 there were almost 20,000 more people born internationally living in Greater Cleveland than in the previous 10 years.
This is huge. In spite of the extreme vetting to the extreme amount (new citizens to-be already go through 14 serious security steps to come here) we know factually that immigrants give more than they take, https://globalcleveland.org/small-number-immigrants-giving-cleveland-mighty-big-boost/
Also, refugees exponentially return more than they are given, http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/09/estimated_number_of_refugees_l.html and Cleveland wouldn’t be Cleveland without newcomers. If you are reading this newsletter you know of what I speak.
Action item: we need your brain power, your muscles, and your creative compassion for Thomas Jefferson and her beautiful students. If you want to help amazing children now and not wait to read about them on the cover of Newsweek, they are right here. Help how? Volunteer, tutor, write about, learn about, share your own brilliance with these inspiring human beings, many of whom have gone through hell to get here, but clearly are in the best place they can be as their new home.
Why help? Because these are our kids and they are winners. And they are on their way to inventing the cure for cancer, creating the next tech startup that will employ 500 native-born U.S. citizens, being great fathers and mothers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, non-profit practitioners, and employees. My email is email@example.com FYI, you should really think about this. If you want to do one thing to make the clouds move in a different direction, this is it. I guarantee you will be smiling, too. Have a great November.