Building a Support System: Finding Your Community as a US Immigrant

Building a Support System: Finding Your Community as a US Immigrant


Schools must give information in a way families can understand. Sometimes, families need help understanding, especially if they’re not good at reading. By figuring out how families like to talk, school leaders can use their resources and time better.

Building a Support System

Also, it’s super important to give forms and papers in the languages families speak at home, like registration forms and emergency contacts. Remember, families might not know much about how schools work here, and they might have lots of questions, especially about immigration stuff.

Tips for Getting Started

Let’s team up with the parent helpers to figure out how to give info in different languages and find out how families like to talk. They might prefer:

  • Talking face-to-face
  • Getting papers with info written down
  • Emails
  • Checking websites
  • Calling on the phone or getting automatic calls
  • Texting
  • Chatting on social media
  • Watching events online with videos
  • Working together with local groups like churches

Posting Information Online

Putting translated information online helps families get what they need without leaving home. By learning how families like to be contacted, we can figure out how easy it is for them to get online and tell them where they can go to get internet access.

Recommended Resources

  • Talking to families who speak different languages during COVID-19: Tips for schools (Colorín Colorado)
  • Talking to parents who are learning English: A helpful guide (Engaging ELL Families Guide)
  • Helpful stuff for families who have moved to California: Info and support (Californians Together)
  • Facts for parents who don’t speak much English and for schools that want to talk to them – you can get it in English or other languages (from the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice, shared by Colorín Colorado)

Revisit School Data About Immigrant Students

Why This Matters

Looking at information about students can help you see if there are any common problems or things happening in their families. It’s important not to guess or ask about their immigration status.

But the more you know about your students and their families, the better you can help them. Sometimes you might find things you didn’t expect, like a high school in Illinois finding out that lots of immigrant students needed help applying for college.

Tips for Getting Started

Look at the information about your students, especially those who are immigrants. Talk to the staff who work with these students, but keep their privacy in mind.

Remember, immigrant students can be from different places and have different levels of education. When you check the data, ask yourself:

  • What do you notice about the families?
  • Do they come from different parts of the world, have different religions, or speak different languages?
  • What about their education backgrounds?
  • Are there any specific problems or challenges their families face?

You can find more information about immigrant and English language learner populations in your state from sources like the Public Policy Institute of California and the American Immigration Council.

Don’t assume you know what issues families are dealing with based on where they’re from or what language they speak.

For example, not all undocumented immigrants are from Latin America; there are many from other countries like South Korea, the Philippines, and India. So, it’s important to understand the diversity among immigrant families.

Encourage Family Leadership

Why This Matters

Families can really help their community if they’re given the opportunity. They can share ideas on how to make things better for other families. Principal Nathaniel Provencio noticed that because families are unsure about things, they’re stepping up to lead in the school community more.

Tips for Getting Started

Talk to families and find out what they’re worried about or curious about. Get some families together to chat about these things. Ask them to figure out what’s most important and come up with suggestions for teachers, principals, or other leaders.

Invite families to meetings where school board members talk and ask them to share their thoughts. Make sure there are people who can translate if needed and tell families it’s okay to use them.

Take what families say seriously and only ask for their opinions if you’re ready to really hear them out. It might be tough at first, but you’ll learn a lot from it.


Recommended Resources

  1. Helping Parents Lead: A Guide for Engaging Families with Kids Learning English
  2. Empowering Parents: Developing Leaders in California
  3. Joining Decision-Making Groups: A Guidebook for Families (in two languages)
  4. Toolkit for Better Partnerships: Ideas from Johns Hopkins University
  5. Effective Partnership Practices in Colorado Schools
  6. Understanding How Immigrant Parents Get Involved: A Guide by Young-Chan Han
  7. Helping Newcomer Students and Parents Engage in Schools
  8. Working Together with Immigrant Parents: Tips for Educators
  9. Supporting Immigrant and Refugee Children at School: Tips for Parents and Families
  10. Changing Ideas About Parent Involvement: Insights from Immigrant and Refugee Parents
  11. Creating Connections Between Latinx Immigrant Parents and Schools

Create Partnerships With Community Organizations

Why This Matters

In addition to helping with basic needs, other groups in your community like ones that work with immigrants, churches, and businesses can be helpful. These groups can offer:

  • Special knowledge about the problems families are dealing with
  • Programs and skills tailored to specific communities
  • Connections to resources that can be useful
  • Hands-on help with things like making sure immigrant students have what they need and finding legal help for families
  • People who are willing to volunteer and support others in important ways.

The Role of Libraries

Libraries help immigrant families too. Here are some examples:

  1. A school librarian helped immigrant students.
  2. The Hennepin County Library said everyone is welcome.
  3. The Boston Public Library taught citizenship to immigrants.

Also, there’s a cool program in a report called “Building Safe Community Spaces for Immigrant Families, One Library at a Time.”

Community Schools

Across the country, lots of schools are starting to use the community school idea. This means they team up with others to give students extra help so they can do well.

You can find out more on our community school resource page. Also, check out our video about how community schools help families who are learning English or have immigrated, filmed at Wolfe Street Academy in Baltimore, Maryland.

Tips for Getting Started

Make a map of all the important people and resources in your area that can help you and your community. Talk with your coworkers about which partnerships are good and which new ones you could try. Find partners who can give students cool experiences.

Reach out to other leaders in your community, like church leaders or business owners, who want to help immigrants. Maybe you can work together to solve problems. Use examples from other places to inspire people.

Don’t be afraid to say no to partnerships that won’t really help. Principal Mark Gaither turned down some partnerships because they wouldn’t help his students, and found better ones instead.

Recommended Resources

Let’s get ELL families involved by teaming up with community groups. We’ll work together to support ELLs and their families. Also, we’ll use community schools to help ELLs succeed. You can find more information on this in the Colorín Colorado resource page.

Case Studies

  1. Original: After a hate crime, a town welcomes immigrants into its schools. Simplified: Town invites immigrants to join schools after a hate crime.
  2. Original: Joe Maddon and the Hazleton Integration Project. Simplified: Joe Maddon works on Hazleton Integration Project (from NBC News).


1. Why is building a support system important as a US immigrant?

Adjusting to life in a new country can be challenging, and having a support system can provide emotional, practical, and social assistance during this transition.

2. How can I find my community as a new immigrant in the US?

Explore local cultural and immigrant organizations, attend community events, join social media groups, and engage with fellow immigrants in your area to build connections.

3. What resources are available to help immigrants establish a support network?

Local community centers, religious institutions, immigrant advocacy groups, and online platforms offer resources, workshops, and networking opportunities tailored to immigrants’ needs.

4. How can language barriers be overcome when trying to connect with others in the community?

Seek out language classes, language exchange programs, and online language resources to improve communication skills and bridge language gaps within your community.

5. What if I’m feeling isolated or struggling to find support?

Reach out to support hotlines, counseling services, or immigrant support organizations for guidance and assistance. Remember that you’re not alone, and there are resources available to help you through difficult times.


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