New Centerville program works to help influx of immigrant families

A new Centerville school initiative designed to increase engagement between residents and immigrant families will have its formal kickoff from 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 13 at Tower Heights Middle School, 195 N. Johanna Dr.

The initiative is called Connect Centerville and is the brainchild of Megan LeMaster, the English Language Learner (ELL) coach for Centerville City Schools.

“In Centerville, we’ve had an influx of new families from other countries over the past few years, so we wanted to put together something to welcome those recently arrived families,” LeMaster said. “We also want to provide a space for the entire community to learn from many of the community organizations in Centerville who will be at the event to showcase who they are and what they do.”

MORE: Animal care hospital starts construction for new facility in Centerville

Community Relations Specialist Sarah Swan said the kickoff event, called We are Centerville, is funded through a grant from Heren Foundation USA, which donated $30,000 to Centerville Schools in support of the Connect Centerville initiative.

“We currently have 215 students who have been identified as English Language Learners, and their families speak more than 30 different languages,” Swan said. “The top four languages are Chinese, Arabic, a variety of Indian languages, and Spanish.”

Program coordinators say the initiative has helped increase engagement between residents and immigrant families in order to promote community and help recently arrived families adjust to their new home.

“We began recruiting families for our Host Family program at the beginning of the school year. Volunteers have signed up to be host families to families who are newly arrived in Centerville from other countries,” LeMaster said. “So far we’ve matched approximately 20 newly arrived families with a host family.”

The Host Family program is just one of those intended under the umbrella of the Connect Centerville initiative, which aims to build connections for newly arrived immigrant families in the community.

“When a parent comes to our district to enroll their student in U.S. schools for the first time, I try to meet with them at enrollment,” LeMaster said.

She said the idea for Connect Centerville resulted from conversations and interactions with those families.

“I’ve also lived in another country and experienced that there is a lot to learn at the beginning about daily life in a new community that can become overwhelming,” LeMaster said. “Furthermore, I think many people who are settled and established in Centerville have taken note of the their newly arrived neighbors and have a genuine desire to make connections.”

MORE: New economic development leader hired in Centerville

The Nov. 13 event is free and open to all Centerville-Washington Township residents.

MORE: After $5M expansion, Centerville’s Woodbourne Library reopens with special event

There will be live performances by Bright Moments, Centerville High School Dance Company, Dwyer School of Irish Dance, Novae A Cappella, Rondalla Band and Qipao Dancers.

Displays are planned from community groups such as Dayton Chinese School, Fuyao Glass America, Puerto Rican, American and Caribbean Organization (PACO), Sinclair Community College, University of Dayton, Wright-State University, Washington-Centerville Public Library, Centerville-Washington Park District, City of Centerville, Washington Township and other local organizations.

Food and desserts will be available for purchase from food trucks such as Billy Gold Bubble Tea, Dayton Urban BBQ and Greek Street.

Cline music teacher Bill Burns is organizing a sing-a-long to close out the event, and all second- through fifth-grade students in the district are invited to join in singing the song “This Land is Your Land” by Woodie Guthrie at 7:50 p.m.

About the Author