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San Pablo Program Aimed at Supporting Refugee Students

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    San Pablo Program Aimed at Supporting Refugee Students

    Contra Costa County is now home to the only middle school on the west coast aimed at educating and supporting refugees. Jodi Hernandez reports.

    (Published Friday, Sept. 27, 2019)

    Contra Costa County is now home to the only middle school on the west coast aimed at educating and supporting refugees.

    The Internationals Academy held its grand opening Friday and comes during a challenging time for refugees. On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced he is dramatically cutting the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States.

    "I never think I can have the opportunities and I'm here now, and I'm so excited for that," said Tatiana Mejia. The 14 year old says she's grateful to be living the American dream. Mejia, an eighth grader, fled from dangerous conditions in her native El Salvador two years ago to Contra Costa County with her family.

    "I think this is the best thing to happen in my life," Mejia said.

    Now there is a school aimed at helping students just like Mejia. The Internationals Academy at Helms Middle School in San Pablo celebrated its grand opening Friday, becoming the first middle school on the west coast focused on supporting refugees and newcomers.

    "We really want to create a solid environment where students can learn together in a safe classroom where they feel they can take academic chances," principal Jessica Petrilli said.

    Officials said 90 students from 11 countries are enrolled in the program -- all of them hoping for a better future.

    "My family come here for jobs and opportunities," student Anmol Singh said.

    Those behind the academy say refugees have never needed more support, especially after President Trump announced he's cutting the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. this coming year in a half.

    "Too many people are in danger and they need a place that's more safe and it's bad they cut the opportunities to have a better life in this country," Mejia said.

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