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Stillwater groups helping educate, acclimate Afghan families

Stillwater Public Schools
Stillwater High School in Stillwater, Okla.

Stillwater Public Schools is partnering with Oklahoma State University to help with education for Afghan refugees. This is part of Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma's initiative to resettle hundreds of Afghan families.

The Stillwater Catholic Charities is taking in around 150-200 people, which is the third-largest amount outside Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Stephanie Coca and two teachers meet every day with incoming families to teach English and classroom procedure, and provide cultural information on American schools.

Coca is the district’s English language learner and diversity and inclusion coordinator for the school district. She said there are 12-13 students from the families in Stillwater, ranging from pre-K to senior year in high school.

"We're just helping them kind of acclimate briefly before we transition them to an actual classroom," Coca said.

The school is working with the OSU's English Language Intercultural Center to help get parents and students registered or enrolled. Coca said she moved to different places while growing up, and understands what it's like to be in a new place and not be able to speak the language or understand the food or culture.

"It's scary, you know, the first time you go to another country where you can't understand the language it can be scary," Coca said. "But one thing that's the same in every culture is a smile."

In addition to helping with education, the district is taking up donations. Diana Nolan is the district social worker for the school district, and she said they are receiving donations from everywhere.

"Some guy mails backpacks from California," Nolan said.

The district is also working with the mosque, churches and different community organizations to help resettle the families. Nolan said the response from the community and beyond is helpful.

Donations for school supplies are still being taken, but Nolan said one thing that is needed are small white boards and expo markers. Items will be taken up at Will Rogers Elementary in Stillwater Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

More information about the Afghan refugee resettlement effort in Oklahoma can be found at cceok.org/refugees.

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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