The National Welcoming Week, September 16-25, is a time to celebrate the values that unite us as neighbors, colleagues, and classmates, values like hard work and resiliency. It’s a time to build bridges across differences by sharing our stories. Stories of resilience and overcoming obstacles, for example, can build bonds between immigrant and U.S.-born adults. The journey of Lamchit Phiongphouthai to escape the devastation of war in Laos that destroyed his home, workplace, and school reflects his resilience much like the journey of U.S.-born Davita Carter who survived an abusive relationship and a serious workplace injury. Both found their way to go back to school to make a better life for themselves and their families.
Through increased dialogue we find commonalities and build community. Communities grow stronger when all community members feel valued and have a sense of belonging. This is as true in any classroom as it is in the community at large.
In celebration of the Welcoming Week, Welcoming America and World Education, Inc. developed a free Instructors’ Toolkit for Building Bridges Across Communities. The toolkit is designed for adult educators who are interested in building more welcoming classrooms and communities by finding commonalities and celebrating values that unite us. The toolkit consists of mid-level, adaptable ESOL and ABE classroom activities that aim to foster dialogue across cultures and build lasting connections, especially among immigrants and US-born residents. It draws on resources developed by Welcoming America and The Change Agent magazine from World Education.
In some parts of the country adult education programs are joining other community groups to organize events and activities for the Welcoming Week. Here’s an article on what Fresno Adult School organized last year. Adult learning centers across the U.S. welcome refugees and immigrants year-round, and the national Welcoming Week is an opportunity recognize and deepen that role inside and outside of the classroom.