CMS International Center helps Charlotte students with more than just English

WBTV’s Mary Calkins followed one family as they went through the International Center.
WBTV’s Mary Calkins followed one family as they went through the International Center.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:21 AM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools may be the second largest district in the state, but when it comes to English learning students, there are thousands of students who don’t speak English as their first language.

To help them, CMS wants to set an example with the International Center.

For immigrant families, it can be hard to navigate the public school system. And that’s where CMS International Center steps in.

The center has worked with nearly 50,000 people across the district. Of that, 181 counties and 209 languages other than English are represented.

WBTV’s Mary Calkins wanted to see how the process works from arriving in Charlotte as an immigrant to becoming a CMS student for herself, so she tagged along with a Guatemalan family as they went through the International Center.

“We do have daily hundreds and hundreds of requests from different schools,” said Gilmara Johnson, director of the English Learners Service Department. “A lot of families have come through so much. Coming here, having all the support in one place, it’s crucial for the families to come and be ready to start school.”

These are families like Mirna Perez Miranda’s. She and her niece moved from Guatemala to North Carolina.

It’s time for her niece to start high school, but she isn’t enrolled and neither of the two speak English.

Through a translator, she told Calkins that this country and the education system can bring the opportunities that she never had.

Her niece is one of more than 27,000 students utilizing this program after moving to the U.S.

They met with a translator who helped get Perez Miranda’s niece enrolled in the ninth grade.

From there, she went into English proficiency testing. This will help the district know what level of ESL she’ll need.

Next, they went together to the Hope Boutique.

“We want to make sure the families have something to get the children started. We give them a backpack, some school material, they can get a coat or school uniform, a couple changes of clothes so they can at least get ready to start,” said Johnson.

Charlotte residents welcome their new neighbors through these donations. They’re free to the students and their families.

“She feels thankful and blessed by God that she has the opportunity to get the supplies she needs for her niece who just came from Guatemala. So, she’s very thankful,” a translator said for Perez Miranda.

Her niece will soon start the ninth grade.

But the journey with IC doesn’t end when families walk out those doors; staff will check in with the student and her school to make sure she’s getting all the help she needs.

“After they leave our International Center, we want to make sure they are provided resources adequately and appropriately by the school,” said Nadja Trez, Executive Director of Learning and Language Acquisition Department.

If you would like to donate clothing, books, or school supplies to the international center, you are encouraged to contact them. Their biggest need right now is for school supplies.

Read also: Changes could be coming to CMS’s academically-gifted program