New documentary features Wichita refugee students

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two Wichita students whose families fled violence and civil war in their home countries are featured in a new documentary about refugee resettlement and its impact on the city's schools.

The film produced by Kansas State University's College of Education is called "Refuge in the Heartland" and will premiere during a free screening Tuesday at Wichita Public Schools' headquarters, the Wichita Eagle reported.

The film follows students Alain and Dorcas, who are among more than 130 refugees enrolled in Wichita schools. Their last names weren't included in the documentary. Alain's family lived in a refugee camp for 17 years and Dorcas resettled in Wichita after fleeing the civil war in Congo.

The university focused on Wichita schools because of initiatives such as the Newcomers program, which helps new immigrants and refugees in their transition, according to district officials.

"We hope people walk away with a renewed sense of community pride and appreciation for their teachers and schools after watching this documentary," said Debbie Mercer, dean of the university's College of Education.

Trina Harlow, the university's art education instructor who taught refugee and displaced students in Uganda and Ecuador, wanted the film to serve as an instructional tool for educators, volunteers and others who worked with refugee families.

"Children with refugee status are here legally and they are our collective responsibility," Harlow said. "Many schools have outstanding ESL programs but, in my opinion, refugee students need more — they need ways to release emotion and deal with trauma, they need to learn about our culture, some even need to learn how to go about their day in formalized schooling. They need caring educators and peers who understand what it means to be a refugee."

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com


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