Mrs. Solowey is the English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Oaklyn Public School, in Oaklyn, NJ. Numerous new Refugee families live in Oaklyn, making the town and its school system very involved with the local Refugee community and Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement program staff. Through intimate interaction with all her ESL students and a creative attitude towards teaching, Mrs. Solowey is intrinsically involved in the growth of these children’s English language skills. But her role in the lives of Refugee students involves far more than just English language education.
It is fair to say that Mrs. Solowey “loves her job and adores her students.” As if organizing a school-wide Christmas donation program benefiting Refugee families wasn’t enough, her extra-curricular efforts include a great deal of unofficial assistance – Refugee parents bring their problems to school for her to help, and help she does. Assisting with housing issues, helping decipher bills and making herself generally available to Refugee families, Mrs. Solowey is a valuable asset to this unique community. With a lending-program in her classroom, she has developed a particularly creative way to engage her students in their new American lives: lending out everything from movies and sports equipment, to Halloween costumes in the Fall and evening wear for dances in the Spring. She says, “I believe they need to feel welcomed and comfortable in their new surroundings before true learning can happen. Therefore, I try my best to help them both at school and at home, making their transition (and their family’s) as easy as possible.”
Through her efforts in the Oaklyn community, Elizabeth Solowey is not only making a huge impact on her students, she is inspiring others. Without a doubt, her tireless commitment to active and compassionate Refugee Resettlement is a tremendous example for other members of the community. Saying, “If I had the resources, I would travel to all the countries my students are from, to make my awareness of their cultures and backgrounds better understood,” it seems like her work will never be done.
By Brad Landry, Refugee Resettlement Case Manager