Thomas Jefferson High School. Photography by Carly May.

Thomas Jefferson High School is launching a new program for recent immigrants and English language learners called the Newcomer Academy.

The academy serves Newcomers and English learners. Newcomers are classified as someone who has been in the country for less than three years, and Thomas Jefferson High has one of the highest Newcomer Student populations in the state, according to the district. With 140,000 students, Dallas ISD also has more English learners than San Antonio ISD, El Paso ISD, Frisco ISD or San Fransisco has students, according to Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

“If you just look at our freshman newcomers, brand new to the school and brand new to the U.S., there are more than 150 students this year,” Jefferson High School Principal Benjamin Jones said to Dallas ISD’s News Hub. “The campus has an enrollment of 1,500 and almost 50 percent of our students were at one point in the last four years classified as a Newcomer Student. If you include the number of students that were in ESL programs in elementary or middle school, we get to approximately 75 percent of our student population that, at some point in their education career, has been a newcomer. That’s why this program is vital for our students’ success.”

For the 2021-2022 school year, the district’s newcomer program was only offered at five of the district’s elementary schools, and offered support for Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, and Kiswahili-Swahili speakers. Jefferson High’s program starts during the 2022-2023 school year and will allow students to spend two years at the center before finishing their remaining two years of high school at their neighborhood campus.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins sees the academy as crucial to the social, cultural and economic future of Dallas.

“As of 2017, there were 300,000 immigrant homeowners in North Texas, and that accounts for over $70 billion of property value. We have over 100,000 immigrant entrepreneurs who are generating almost $3 billion of business income,” said Judge Jenkins to Dallas ISD’s NewsHub.

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