College students welcome refugees on 'Alternative Spring Break' - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

College students welcome refugees on 'Alternative Spring Break'

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(Western Mass News photo) (Western Mass News photo)
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

A group of Springfield College students are spending their spring break giving back to the community this week.

Instead of hanging at home or soaking up the sun on a beach somewhere, they chose to work with refugee students at a Springfield school today, giving the kids a chance to get comfortable in their new home.

For 4th grader Francisco Carillo, today means everything.

A group of Springfield College students are here to see him, talk to him and learn from him.

He and the other kids in this group at the Boland School are refugees from several different countries, and are slowly but surely learning the ins and outs of American life.

Carillo moved to Springfield from El Salvador.

"My dad was here, and I was living with my mom there, and she was talking with me a lot about here," Carillo said. "That was my wish, to be here."

Boland School principal Lisa Barkowski told us this chance to interact with college students has been nothing short of a dream.

The elementary-aged students have arrived over the course of a few years from places like the Middle East and Latin America, speaking little to no English.

"They are war torn countries, many of them, and family members either weren't able to get out with them or even more tragically have died," Barkowski said.

Today is a chance for them to continue to adjust to American life, while serving as a platform to tell their story.

"They are students from another country, but we don't know really what is behind that student, what experiences they've had, and what they've seen in their lives," Barkowski told us.

The language barrier is tough, but the kids are eager to learn.

"Today's work is part of a week-long program for Springfield College called ‘Alternative Spring Break’, and it's giving college students as many life lessons as it is these kids."

Olivia Filanowski, a Springfield College freshman, appreciates the opportunity to give back to her new community.

"I’ll be spending four years at Springfield. I want to get to know the community that I’m living in," Filanowski said.

There are several different spring break programs the college students can get involved in. This one aims to educate students about immigration issues while helping refugees feel comfortable in America.

The week long program has made many stops in the city already, from shoveling during the storm to interacting with young children.

"I love working with kids. It was great," Filanowski said.

The group will continue their alternative spring break for the rest of the week before returning to campus.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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