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By: Terry Segovis, Ed.D., DeKalb International Student Center Principal

About the Author

Dr. Segovis is the Principal of the DeKalb International Student Center, where their primary mission is to teach English to non-English speaking students, grades 3 through 12. He received honors from the DeKalb County School District as the 2013 Regional Principal of the Year, and he is a long-time advocate for refugee youth. We appreciate his partnership in serving the refugee community in DeKalb County – and for sharing his thoughts this month on the importance of this work.


If you have come to this page looking for an older Thought Leadership piece, please scroll down to the archives.


It’s All About Student Support

The work we do at The DeKalb International Student Center (or The IC) is gateway work. 

We welcome students and their families into the North American school experience, we teach students how to speak enough English to be successful in their neighborhood school, and we try to teach enough about the culture of the schools in North America that students will feel successful moving forward in their educational careers.

There are several ways we try to help our students become successful students, and one day – successful citizens.

First and foremost, we utilize best practices in English language acquisition instruction.  Teachers are certified in English for Speakers of Other Languages.  To achieve this certification level, teachers take course work in the development of language, language acquisition techniques, pedagogy, psycho-linguistics, and cultural competence.  Everyone at The IC is learning how to become better at teaching newcomers how to listen, speak, read, and write English.  Sometimes this work is done without the student having literacy skills in the student’s first language!

Wrap around services are the extra support students need beyond academic support.  The goal of wrap around services is to eliminate or ameliorate barriers to academic success. These services may include:

  • psychological, medical, or ecological support
  • resolving challenges with transportation, housing, or other economic needs
  • climate-appropriate clothing, hygiene or nutrition education
  • individual, family, or community conflict resolution
  • legal, financial, or employment assistance

Wrap around service providers are available to assist with our students’ needs, refer to appropriate agencies, and find resources for students who do not know how to navigate the transition to North American systems.

Attitudes and temperament of staff are such that we expect the best from our students but understand that sometimes our students need extra patience and compassion as they adjust to their new homeland.  High expectations are important for student success, but unrealistic expectations cause the opposite effect.  Staff members at The IC spend time training on how to manage expectations so that students have the latitude to learn and grow at their own pace, but also with a sense of urgency when appropriate.  Some of that training is provided by our partner agencies.

Expanding extra-curricular offerings help student normalize to their futures in standard neighborhood schools.  We have some clubs, we have some special events, we have a student council, and we have some after-school activities.  As these limited extra-curricular activities proceed – we teach students how to participate.

Partnerships with resettlement organizations like New American Pathways and local service organizations round out the work we do to support our students at The IC.  Developing and maintaining strong working relationships with the organizations that settle refugee families makes perfect sense. We partner with the agency caseworker and that helps the family.  We have a contact to help with family communication, and the family has someone who can help translate and interpret the expectations and the available resources of the school system.  The resettlement agencies help provide afterschool tutoring, and the school provides the other students, some teachers, and the location.  It just makes good sense to partner together.  Student outcomes have shown how good this idea is: students who participate in agency sponsored after-school tutoring show remarkable increases in reading, English, and math scores; and their behavior and attendance improves.  As the agency staff gets to know and work with the students, they get to know the family better.  As the relationship with the family strengthens, the buy-in to family engagement with the school deepens.  It is a win-win for everyone.

Archived Thought Leadership Stories


February 2017: Clarkston, Georgia: An Ever-Changing Town by Awet Eyasu

January 2017: Reclaiming Georgia’s Legacy of Love by Paedia Mixon

December 2016: Reflections on Welcoming Communities Trip to Germany by Alicia Phillip

November 2016: Thanksgiving in America by Bishop Robert Wright

October 2016: Voting: The Real American Dream by Elizabeth Poythress

August/September 2016: From the Road: das Willkommen by Paedia Mixon

July 2016: My Life In AmeriCorps by Lauren Mertens

June 2016: Reflecting On World Refugee Day

May 2016: A Gift for my Parents by Bee Nguyen

April 2016: The Ripple Effect by Breauna Hagen

March 2016: Lessons I’ve Learned Tutoring a Refugee by Ashley Hager

February 2016: For the Love of Humanity by Safia Jama

January 2016: 4D Service Learning at The Galloway School by Scotti Belfi

November and December 2015: A Case for Syrian Resettlement by Paedia Mixon

October 2015: Creating a Welcoming Atlanta Interview with Luisa Cardona

September 2015: Third-Annual Red, White and NEW Event Exceeds Fundraising and Advocacy Goals by Kelley Lugo

August 2015: Patti Garrett – August 2015 Food for Thought by Patti Garrett

July 2015: Engaging International Families in Parent Groups by Patti Ghezzi

June 2015: Reflecting on the Fourth of July by Kevin Abel

May 2015: Looking Back on Iraq by Whitney Kweskin

April 2015: All Hail Hall by Spencer Hall

March 2015: Honoring our Volunteers by Adriana Varela

February 2015: Celebrating New Americans by Charles Barnwell and Bob Glick

January 2015: What Refugees Leave Behind by Wendy Cheeks

December 2014: Welcoming Week in Atlanta by Emily Pelton

Georgia and Local Community


The Economic Benefits of Welcoming Refugees:

Refugee entrepreneurs are expanding prosperity for all Atlantans by opening new businesses that add to the tax base, employ local residents, and bring fresh ideas and products to our community.



Food for Thought

“Doing Business Like a Refugee” – For countries that embrace refugee business, what follows is often a boon to the economy, and an outlet for the refugees themselves. Via NPR Planet Money

“Where are refugees to the US coming from?” : via Washington Post

“U.S. Religious Leaders Embrace Cause of Migrant Children” – This summer, religious leaders across the United States lead the cause of welcoming unaccompanied migrant children to their communities. via New York Times Link

“The Children of the Drug Wars: A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis” – The ongoing issues facing Central American countries, forcing thousands of unaccompanied children are complicated. Here is one view of the crisis. via New York Times Link

What Do You Think?

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