“It is easy to take everything for granted” – High School Students Learn From Immigrants

Four students from a Tea Area High School Spanish class learned about language acquisition in a very hands-on way last month when they visited our English classes here at LSS.

And their responses to the visit were astounding.

I’d like to let their words speak for themselves:

Keegen Kleinwolterink said, “Our field trip to Lutheran Social Services has forever made a major impact on me and my life. It is easy to take everything for granted when you are in a culture such as ours because we have no shortage of food or clothing. Learning first-hand about refugees and their struggles has given me a whole different perspective. I never realized how tough it is for refugees just to get by. They are forced to leave their country because of persecution or war, and they are forced to endure hardships and trauma during their journey to safety.” 

Keegen continued, “It is easy to stereotype refugees and immigrants if you don’t know anything about them. I know I used to believe that they were less intelligent or that they had weird religious beliefs. I have since learned to accept people who are different because I now know that refugees are as important as anyone else. My visit to LSS helped me learn how kind and grateful refugees are. All of them had smiles on their faces and all of them would say good morning as we walked passed them. Even though some of them have gone through major trauma, they don’t seem to let it get to them.”

spanish Ss in orientation

Tea Area High School students attend a Refugee 101 class at LSS.

Other students echoed Keegen’s words.

Sidney Clayberg said, “I thought we were just going to observe, but when we had a chance to be a part of classes, I was ecstatic. This was a heart-warming experience because I got to learn about other people and have a normal conversation with them.”

Emma McCalmont said, “I had a wonderful experience at LSS. I would recommend this opportunity to everyone, even if they aren’t learning a new language.”

Mahli Garry, a former English Instructor at LSS who now teaches Spanish in Tea, said she organized the field trip because she wanted to get her students out of their comfort zone and to help them learn about language acquisition as well as about refugees.

I knew they would be a bit overwhelmed and uncomfortable at first but once they embraced that, they would thrive and help each other get out of that comfort zone,” Mahli said. “At first they were really nervous but once they started helping out in the classrooms, they loved it. And they have not stopped talking about it and about going back.”

spanish Ss at rest rotated

From left to right: Kaitlin Wesselink, Keegen Kleinwolterink, Sidney Clayberg and Emma McCalmont.  After the students’ visit to LSS, they lunched at a local Vietnamese restaurant.

In addition to participating in the English-language classes, the students also received a Refugee 101 class and a tour of the school.

Garry said she prepared the students for the field trip by reading several articles on bilingualism, watching a Teen  TedTalk about learning languages, and also reading a recent article that featured LSS in The Atlantic.

In summing up her experience, Kaitlyn Wesselink said, “My most enjoyable moment was in the level four class. These students were definitely the most advanced. I understood them easily. We all began to learn about each other in the short time that we were there. This trip changed a few of my stereotypes. I was not expecting the students to be as excited as they were.”

Mahli said she hopes to repeat the trip next year.

A visit to LSS makes a great high school field trip.

Spread the word.

If you know any foreign language or history teachers who may be interested in organizing a hands-on field trip to learn about refugees and immigrants in Sioux Falls, they can contact Kristyne Walth at 731-2009 or email her at kristyne.walth@lsssd.org.

We love to showcase our students!

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson


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