G.W. Carver serves up Thanksgiving for APELL?students in need
At the G.W. Carver Center in Frankford on Nov. 18, the APELL (Advancing Proficiency of English Language Learners) staff was thankful for community.
With local residents coming together to not only donate, but volunteer, that’s how they were able to put on their second annual Thanksgiving feast for immigrant students, introducing most of them to their first traditional Thanksgiving with a celebratory feast.
“I think it was wonderful to see so many people involved with trying to make the kids have a welcoming first Thanksgiving in our country,” said Lori Ott, who teaches English and serves as the program’s unofficial “lead teacher” after 22 years in the district.
“The students really appreciated it, and I think the volunteers really enjoyed getting to meet the students. Even though there were language barriers, you could still see them communicating.”
With Hocker’s on board to do the catering, G.W. Carver students, teachers and APELL mentors were invited to enjoy all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, from turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes all the way to pumpkin pie.
Thanks to donations from Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church and members of Sea Colony, and from throughout the community, there was even enough food to send each student home with leftovers — leftovers that were, in many cases, much-needed.
“It was all done through donations,” said Ott. “A lot of people who donated actually came in and served the students and the staff.”
After making their way to the United States, often on foot, all the way from Guatemala, Honduras, and even Haiti, many of the students in the APELL program are not only struggling with learning English but getting through the holidays without their immediate families.
“I think this is a really hard time of year for these students, because most of them are here without their parents,” said Cindy Smith, who teaches math and algebra in the program. “We wanted to celebrate them being here for the holidays and maybe lessen the pain of missing their loved-ones back home.”
“This was a way to welcome them and make them see that the people in the community do care about them, even though they might be feeling like they’re alone,” added Ott. “A lot of them are unaccompanied youth — they’re kind of feeling lost because their families are still back in their countries. We wanted to do something with the kids where we felt like we could all celebrate as a family here.”
Along with G.W. Carver APELL computerized-math teacher Sylvester Quillen and family liaison Diaz Bonville, Smith and Ott have teamed up to try to ensure that the kids who need help and support can actually get it.
In most cases, their struggle doesn’t end at trying to learn a new language or missing family members. After fighting just to get here, some of them are now fighting difficult living situations, not having enough food to eat and barely even have clothes to wear.
“Some of them have to wear the same thing to school every day,” Smith said. “It’s starting to get cold, and most of them don’t even have jackets.”
While organizations including Mariner’s Bethel have been trying to help raise money to donate school supplies, clothing, food or other basic items, there are always more students in need.
In response, the team at G.W. Carver is already planning doing something similar for Christmas. And while they’re thankful for the community that always steps up to do its part in giving back, they’re hopeful that the support continues, so that they can continue to help the kids who need it.
“They’re just kids,” said Smith. “They’re kids, just like our kids, and they need our help.”
To get involved, or to donate, community members can call Diaz Bonville at the G.W. Carver Center at (302) 732-3800.