Rochester school that helps refugees receives award

September 14, 2016 06:28 PM

A local school has been recognized nationally as a "School of Opportunity."

The Rochester International Academy -- made up of mostly refugee students -- is one of just eight schools to receive the honor.

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This comes on the same day the White House announced a goal to take in thousands of refugees in the coming year. The Obama Administration says the U.S. wants to welcome 110,000 refugees from around the world -- that would be a 30 percent increase from the previous year.

The Rochester International Academy helps refugee students make the transition to their new life.

We're told the school's success all comes down to the staff, from the teachers to the bus drivers, they put a lot of heart into what they do -- and go above and beyond to make sure each student succeeds.

"It's an amazing school," says Haidar Alhasooni. "We all work as family."

Alhasooni is from Iraq. Three years ago, he and his family came to the U.S. as refugees. Now, he's in the eleventh grade at Rochester International Academy.

Rachel Spotts: "What brought your family to this area?"

Alhasooni: "In my country, there are a lot of wars. As you know, ISIS is there, and it's hard for us to be there."

Alhasooni is one of over three hundred students at RIA -- all from different countries and with vastly different needs.

Principal Mary Andrecolich-Montesano-Diaz says, "Our kids don't know our alphabet." But the school's founding principal says her staff rises to the challenge. Now they're being honored nationally as a Gold School of Opportunity.

Spotts: "Your reaction to this award?"

Andrecolich-Montesano-Diaz: "So excited. It's huge for my staff. They work so hard."

Instructional coach Jennifer Grimes says, "We have kids that speak twenty different languages from over fifty different countries in the world. Many different religions, different genders, different social classes, different socioeconomic status, and it works."

Spotts: "How do you think this could impact your school?"

Andrecolich-Montesano-Diaz: "We're impacted every year. Even last year we had an influx in refugees."

She adds, "So for us what does that mean? RIA could get bigger, and that's okay with us!"

Another reason the school is so successful? 97 percent of the students show up to school every single day -- and most of them go on to graduate.

To celebrate this award, the school is planning an all-out gold-themed party with students and staff this Friday.


Rachel Spotts

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