Bourbon County

Program helps parents who don’t understand how to fill out forms

Sarah Sturgeon taught first-graders how to say “My name is ...” in Spanish on Wednesday, the first day of school at Cane Ridge Elementary School in Paris.
Sarah Sturgeon taught first-graders how to say “My name is ...” in Spanish on Wednesday, the first day of school at Cane Ridge Elementary School in Paris. palcala@herald-leader.com

There are resources available for immigrants in Bourbon County, but two school employees think that what’s available isn’t enough.

So as school gets back in session, Sarah Sturgeon, a first-grade teacher at Cane Ridge Elementary in Paris, and Lesley Brown, a family resource director for Bourbon County Schools, have launched Café Americano.

The program’s goal is to overcome the gap that Spanish-speaking parents, grandparents and guardians might have in, say, filling out forms for student field trips. It also will connect them to resources for other non-English speakers.

The first Café Americano meeting focused on school forms from the school district. Other meetings will be open to all residents and will be held on the second Saturday of each month in the community room of the Paris-Bourbon County Public Library.

Sturgeon said she hopes that the meetings will help bridge a gap by connecting families with similar situations. The district has a migrant program, which is financed by the federal government to help the needs of migratory agricultural workers. The program assists schools with bilingual education, but Sturgeon said she doesn’t think that’s enough.

“Something we lack in this district is interpreters,” she said.

The women are basing the program on the book, “Explain This To Me: Our US School,” a Spanish-English guide for teachers by Christel Broady, a Georgetown College education professor.

Broady was happy to hear that her book was an inspiration for Sturgeon, whom she taught. And she’s pleased to know about Café Americano.

“It’s really up to them. They are the only link between the immigrant community and the school community,” she said.

Program coordinators hope to help parents and students alike, Sturgeon said.

“They’re so eager as a family to help their kids out and get the best education that they can, but they don’t know who to ask to get that information. So that’s where we’re going to come in.”

Similar ideas were being implemented in Lexington, and Sturgeon thought it would be a good idea in Bourbon County.

Sturgeon hopes a wide range of local professionals will attend the program.

“We have some families who have kids with special needs, and so I want to get some doctors in there to talk about those kind of things. I’d love to get some lawyers in there to talk about immigration and green cards and all that stuff,” she said.

Sturgeon said many students were “scared to death” about deportation after the election of President Donald Trump, and she wanted to assure students that there are resources for legal immigrants.

Families enrolled in the Paris Independent school district also can participate.

“I know we’re two separate school districts, but for all of us, it’s one community,” Sturgeon said. “That’s why we really want to combine the school districts and make sure that is open to everyone in the community.”

According to the 2016 Census estimates, Bourbon County’s Hispanic population, about 1,320 people, is 6.6 percent of the general population. Bourbon County’s schools had 350 students, or 13 percent of the entire student population, during the 2015-2016 school year. Hispanics make up about 17.6 percent of the United States population, or 57 million people.

Debbie Horn, a Bourbon County library employee, said the meetings will be a plus for Bourbon County.

“I know having been a parent — I’m American, and English is my language — it still can be daunting. So to go to another country and have to go through all the hoops, I can’t imagine what it would be like for me having to go to another country and get my children in school,” she said.

Horn said she will host a story time and coloring activities for kids while their parents attend the meeting.

Bourbon County Schools went into session Aug. 9.

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