“I am funny, I am Somerville.”
“I am a brother, I am Somerville.”
“I am kind, I am Somerville.”
These are just a few of the phrases students at the East Somerville Community School (ESCS) have used to describe themselves and their community during the Everyone is Welcome Here Week of Action in years past.
Co-organized by educators Helen Schroeder and Emma Mrozicki, the Everyone is Welcome Here Week of Action is an annual week-long event held at the beginning of May that focuses on uplifting immigrant families in the community and fostering an atmosphere of support and acceptance. Events include community parties and gatherings, assemblies, art projects, and more.
East Somerville is not the first school to host a Welcome Here week in the area. Schroeder says she was inspired to bring the event to ESCS after attending an Educators for Social Justice conference, where she learned about how other schools in the Boston area were supporting immigrant families in their communities.
“We only heard about it just a couple of weeks before the actual week was supposed to occur, so it was all-hands-on-deck in our school,” Schroeder says. “We developed a curriculum guide. We also had a community block party, and had face painting, and a photo project and lots of different things just to celebrate our community. Both years it’s been an incredible response from our school community. The event has had hundreds of people there, and people have just felt sort of love and support—that was our whole goal all along.”
Although the Everyone is Welcome Here week only lasts a few days, ESCS prides itself on celebrating diversity year-round. Every Friday teachers wear shirts designed by PTA parents sporting the “Everyone is Welcome Here” messaging, and student-created signs with the sentiment hang in multiple languages throughout the school.
“This is for real—this is how we do things at the East Somerville Community School,” says Sarah Davila, district administrator of English Learner Education and Family and Community Partnerships.
Mrozicki also teaches in the school’s UNIDOS Dual Language program, where students take classes in both English and Spanish. This program is reflective of the school’s population, as 71.8 percent of the student body identifies as Hispanic.
“It’s a way for many students who speak Spanish as a home language to maintain that language and to become fully literate in both languages,” Mrozicki says. “It’s interesting because it’s a program within the school, so it puts a high emphasis on how important it is to hold onto Spanish and how powerful it is to be bilingual. I’ve noticed that there’s an increased awareness of language in general across the school.”
One of the primary themes of the week is to discuss the contributions immigrants have made to the community. For example, Schroeder says ECSC partnered with English-language-learner classes from the high school to give the younger students an opportunity to learn from their older peers.
“We brought down immigrant students from the high school, who then spoke in classes throughout our school about their experiences being immigrants and being students in Somerville,” Schroeder says. “We’ve done that two years now, and it’s just been really powerful for the kids to have a chance to see kids who are a little older than them speaking to their experiences.”
Both Schroeder and Mrozicki stressed the role that the rest of the community plays in bringing together the Welcome Here week, sharing credit for its success.
“It’s been an opportunity to share and collaborate across the district,” Mrozicki says. “We’re part of a bigger structure within the city that’s really supported us. We kind of brought this spark of inspiration, but there’s just been so many people across the city who are really stepping up in this time to show their support.”
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