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Fernando’s First Time in a Classroom

First Time Classroom Experience

Fernando, 16, arrived at Casa Amanecer a bit unsure of what was to come, and hoping he and his 13 year-old-brother had ended up somewhere safe. Both boys had worked as fishermen in their home country of Honduras and had come to the United States in search of their father.

When the boys arrived, they were given a warm welcome to their new temporary home and became the first youth to stay at Casa Amanecer, a newly opened shelter in Phoenix, AZ. After settling in, the boys met their teacher and case manager and began classes the next day. Reina pulled Fernando out of class for a check-in to make sure he was settling in well and had everything he needed.

“I can’t talk right now, can we talk later?” he said to her in Spanish. Reina was surprised by his response and answered, “Of course, but is everything okay?”

“Yes, everything is great. It’s just that we are in class. I’ve never been in school before and I can’t miss it. We are learning how to use maps and I can see my village!” he excitedly explained.

This was the first time Fernando had ever been in a classroom.

These sweet, heartwarming moments inspire our staff daily and remind us of the coveted first-time experiences many kids experience in our shelters. During his stay at Casa Amanecer, Fernando made quite the impression on the staff, who describe him as star student and a leader to the other kids. “From the beginning, in the shelter, and in-class he showed his charisma… when he learned that there would be a spelling contest in another shelter, he didn’t hesitate to participate even though he had only been learning basic elements of the English language for two weeks. He still managed to obtain third place for his shelter,” shared his teacher.

He participated in a variety of classes, including English courses, and clinician-led sessions on conflict resolution, problem solving and positive coping skills.

Within a few weeks, Fernando’s case manager reunited the boys with their father who, with advice from our case managers, would support the boys through the legal process required for the children to remain in the United States.

Upon departure, Fernado left a letter of welcome for new arrivals, translated below:

“In this shelter I received a lot of help. Thanks to God they gave me everything I needed and I thank my clinician Dora as she was the one that was always with me. I also thank my teacher Alain de La Vega as he is the one that taught me a lot a lot of English, and thanks to him I learned to say many words that I didn't know how to read, but with his help I learn a little more. To the new children I want to recommend this shelter. I also thank all the staff, because they were very nice to me. Also thank you to all the friends I made here because they were also very nice to me. THANK YOU.”

Fernando is just one of the many examples of the resilience, eagerness and potential the children who come into our care demonstrate. At Southwest Key, we are honored to care for and open doors to opportunity to these young men and women, and we wish Fernando and his brother well.