KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Since 2017, the Knox County Schools Welcome Center has served as the bridge between English language learners, their families, and the schools to set everyone up for success.
The Welcome Center strives to create an environment where international families can be a part of the Knox County community and parents can get involved in their child’s education. While more than 100 languages are spoken in the district, the center focuses on the four most common; Spanish, Swahili, Arabic, and Kirundi.
“This is very needed. It’s very needed because you have all these families coming in and we are having a big influx of cultures coming in and it’s good they can find a place,” said Darwin Guerrero, a KCS social worker.
The district serves more than 4,000 ELL students with a different language, academic and social-emotional needs.
“I do feel the families feel supported, they feel this is a safe and welcoming space and that is our first priority to establish when the family comes in here for the first time,” said Inna Slisher the ELL supervisor and migrant liaison.
Sabrina Sarcos is a family community liaison for Spanish-speaking families. She works hands on with families to make sure they feel seen, welcome, and understood.
“The challenge sometimes is how do you get them to that place with all the possible challenges that they are facing? How do you get this child or this young man or young woman ready to learn today?” said Sarcos.
The staff at the Welcome Center support students with instruction and getting them plugged into the community, all while making sure their language is represented.
“It’s rewarding to see that they can take this opportunity and that they feel supported. They take the opportunity, they give their best and they have something to give to the community, to give back to the community as well,” said Sarcos.