By Mary O’KEEFE
Students at Crescenta Valley High School walked their track in the rain on a recent Saturday to show support and raise funds to help new immigrants as they get settled in their new country.
The students were participating in the International Rescue Committee (IRC) Jog-a-Thon fundraiser.
CVHS teacher Amber McLeod is a history teacher who was looking for a way to connect the curriculum with her contemporary world affairs class.
“We were studying refugees,” McLeod said.
Part of McLeod’s responsibilities include overseeing the students’ community service hours. CVHS requires students to complete at least 10 hours of community service in the four years that they attend the school.
“I [wanted] to marry the curriculum with community service,” she explained.
She contacted the state department and was given a list of a variety organizations that work with the department. It was through this process she discovered IRC and executive director Thomas Hill.
She was invited to the IRC office and was given a tutorial of what the organization does.
“The whole process was eye opening,” she said.
The IRC can trace its roots back to 1933 when the American branch of the European-based International Relief Association (IRA) was founded at the suggestion of Albert Einstein. The IRA joined the Emergency Rescue Committee, and IRC was the final result. Throughout the years the organization has assisted those who are immigrating from and to a variety of countries.
When someone is immigrating to the U.S. they are given some assistance by the government, but not much.
“And if you don’t have a sponsor, it is [difficult],” McLeod said.
Evanjeli Terohanian knows first hand how important the IRC can be. “We came through with [IRC] assistance,” Terohanian said.
Now a typical CVHS sophomore, Terohanian remembered what life was like in Iran before she and her family immigrated to the U.S. in 2007.
“I couldn’t go out with friends alone,” she said. “Now looking back it was dangerous … we never spoke out.”
Terohanian said her family attempted to leave Iran a few times before they were able to get help through the IRC. Her parents would trust someone they thought would help them, but they would take their money or steal their passports, she said.
“[Then] we heard about IRC,” she said.
The organization helped the family immigrate in a safe and successful way.
“It was amazing,” she said of arriving in the U.S. “I saw all my cousins. When we stepped outside the airport, I felt free.”
She did not know any English when she arrived and worked with her cousins to learn the language of her new country.
McLeod and her students help with fundraising and are working on developing welcome baskets that will be given to new immigrants. The baskets will include toiletries, maps of the area and bus tokens.
Terohanian was at the Saturday fundraiser to help raise money and to give a personal touch to the organization.
The students have started an on campus IRC Club that will continue the fundraising and outreach efforts. Students Aimee Estrada and Talin Manoukian were joined by third grader Chloe Siebels as they worked the jog-a-thon sign in table.
Freshmen Taylor Middleton, Logan Green and Tara Peroomian wrote welcome letters to recent immigrants, many of whom had migrated from Iran.
“I [wrote] about making the right kind of friends and that education is very important,” Green said.
“I told them it might be hard when they first get here but it will get easier,” Peroomian added.
“I wrote about things they could do and places they could go that are free, like the park,” Middleton said. McLeod hopes the students will not only help raise funds but will teach students about what immigrants go through to get to the United States.
For more information on the IRC, visit www.rescue.org. To donate, support or for more information on the CVHS club, email McLeod at AMcLeod@gusd.net.