A University of Nebraska-Lincoln research professor has teamed up with a Columbia University professor to study how schools can better support recent immigrant students who often face social, emotional, and academic challenges in the United States. United.
UNL’s Lorey Wheeler and Columbia’s Prerna Arora met at a training seminar hosted by the American Psychological Association at Michigan State University in 2014. The seminar, which focused on researching diverse populations, brought them together brought to realize that they shared similar goals when it came to understanding the challenges faced by recent immigrant students.
Many of the young people they have met through their work struggle to adjust to American society and struggle early in American schools, they said.
“Our schools are set up to promote individualism and its values,” said Wheeler, who works at the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools. “It sometimes conflicts with other cultures and what they value and what they think is appropriate for teenagers. In some groups, individuals are less of a focus, so all you do is support your family.”
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For now, Wheeler and Arora are running a two-year pilot program in conjunction with participating schools in New York, focusing on students from China, Latin America, India, Africa and Haiti. who immigrated to the United States in the past five years. They hope to eventually expand their research to Nebraska and other rural areas that historically have had smaller immigrant populations.
In 2018, there were more than 12,000 school-age immigrants in Nebraska, according to the American Immigration Council.
“New York has a lot of different populations and groups that come here,” Wheeler said. “So we thought it was a great opportunity to try to understand some of those differences for teenagers coming from a lot of different countries and how they experience the school context.”
One of the most challenging aspects of recruiting study participants was COVID-19, and they also struggled to survey participants.
“It’s hard to be able to connect with people the way we want to,” Arora said. “Some of these young people don’t have an internet connection at home, so it can also be difficult to reach them virtually.”
While still collecting data, they found that many young immigrants find it difficult to adjust to the school system in the United States due to language barriers, difficulty making friends, mental health issues and discrimination.
According to Wheeler, recent immigrant youth in Nebraska often lack the resources to overcome these challenges. And some communities in rural areas of the state simply don’t have the experience helping immigrant students get acclimated.
The results of the study will be presented at conferences in the hope that educators can use the research in school settings.
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