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Students Celebrate Culture and Language in New SCSD Summer Institute

This is a photo of students from the Institute for Language & Culture standing in front of the entrance to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo and smiling at the camera.Lion. Library. Lettuce. Lamp. Lizard.
High school students in a classroom looked at a picture book, noting items they saw that began with the letter ‘L.’
Next door, middle school students created bead bracelets, carefully threading letter beads onto strings to spell out their names and other meaningful messages.
Down the hall, elementary students read ‘Sandwich Swap,’ a book about two students from different cultures who at first expressed disgust over their different lunches at school, until they tried each other’s food. The students then made the different sandwiches to try – and each Friday throughout the summer, the class made a recipe to share with the two older classes for a ‘community snack time!’
At the Newcomer Academy, part of the SCSD Summer Institute for Culture and Language, about 60 students from kindergarten through 12th grade spent their mornings at Franklin Elementary School this summer, where staff worked to help them adjust and integrate into their new school community. Staff aimed to nurture, validate, and grow students’ cultural and linguistic identities while also leading students in a kind of orientation, preparing them for success in the SCSD.
Each week, students focused on a new activity surrounding the Academy’s theme, “Wonderful Me” – exploring their names, their personal and cultural identities, their communities, and the ways they are similar to and different from their friends. Each week, students completed a project which became part of their “Wonderful Me” portfolio – a compilation of their work to be shared with families at a summer expo at the end of the program.
Hadia Kam War, a junior at Henninger, came to the United States from Afghanistan in 2021. This summer, she worked as a Teaching Assistant at the Summer Institute, helping students in kindergarten through 5th grade.
“I speak Farsi and some Arabic… some of them do, too,” Hadia explained. “Their parents are happy I’m here to help them! This experience can help them a lot. They can share their stories and become friends. It’s easier to learn when you’re talking with each other!”
Grant 6th grader Louai Shikh Ahmad came to the United States from Egypt about a year ago and has been working to improve his English – he currently speaks Arabic.
“I’ve liked learning the alphabet and English a little more,” he said of his experience at camp. “I’ve met other Arabic speakers and it’s nice to talk with them!”
Each day, after students completed their core curriculum, they were invited to take part in an enrichment activity to help enhance their learning. Students painted affirmation rocks, crafted tissue paper flowers, made snack mix and a community meal, and more. They enjoyed discovery sessions with the MOST, took part in mindfulness sessions with Little Yogis, learned through visits from the Syracuse Police, Syracuse Fire Department, Sinbad Restaurant staff, and Syracuse Immigrant & Refugee Affairs Coordinator Adol Mayen. They even had the opportunity to experience field trips as they visited SUNY ESF, Barry Park, the SU Art Museum, and Light Work!
“This program is tailored specifically for our newest ENL students!” Refugee Academic Coach Elizabeth Deng explained. “We have created a curriculum that support their English development and introduces topics that supports their whole development as they adjust and integrate into our school and wider community. The program brings students together across schools, so it's been nice to see them develop new friends (both who speak the same languages and different ones). For the few students who haven't started school yet, we hope the program will help them feel more comfortable in September when they start the regular school year.”
What a terrific #SCSDSummerLearning opportunity – and a great way to celebrate our #SCSDDiversity!
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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