HIAS PA Newsletter: If you were president of the USA, what would you say?

Welcome to Summer School!



They speak Spanish, Dari, French, Georgian, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and other languages.  Welcome to the HIAS PA-School District of Philadelphia Summer Enrichment Program serving 90 fifth to eighth grade English Language Learners (ELLS) in Spruance Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia.   In the morning The Philadelphia School District provided teachers who taught 1 ½ hours of English as a Second Language and 1 ½ hours of science lessons.  In the afternoon HIAS PA’s teaching artists, bi-lingual class aides and volunteers used art, drama, music and movement to reinforce English language learning.  Among the volunteers were high school and college students, including students from Barrack Hebrew Academy and Harvard University.  The program was coordinated by HIAS PA’s Refugee Education Coordinator, Valeri Harteg who, in the short time she has been on staff, has increased collaborations and programming for ELL students.

On July 21st, I visited the program and the students were engaged, enthusiastic and wanted to show me their art book, the stories they wrote, the short plays they acted out and the music they could make.  One story involved a 10 year old who built a house for an old man (see below); another described a child of the same age working many jobs to save money to come to the U.S. A.

In the music class the students had “boom whackers” which are tubes in different lengths and colors, with each length and color producing a “note” when they were gently hit on the arm.  In this way the students could coordinate a color with a note and also learn about why the different lengths produce a different sound.  They play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” matching the colors on a screen with their one colored “boom whacker.”  The highlight of the visit was the rhyming poem they made to a simple chant.   The teacher asked the students to fill in the blanks to this statement:

If I were President of the USA_____________is what I would say
And here’s what they came up with:

If I was President of the USA  never lose hope is what I would say.

If I was President of the USA, give money to the needy is what I would say.

If I was President of the USA,  promote education is what I would say.

If I was President of the USA, no war is what I would say.

What timely messages as we look to the Presidential election!

This program was an amazing success and a model of what can be done, not only to increase learning, but to promote respect for diversity.   These students are our future; I was moved by their ability to not just get along, but collaborate.  It was a nice antidote to the violence and hate-filled rhetoric of the recent months.


Judith Bernstein-Baker

Repair the World Philadelphia will be showcasing student artwork from theSummer Program August 12th to September 12th. Come see it at:

Repair the Wold Philadelphia
4029 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104


From the Creative Writing Class
There was a boy. His name was Johnny. He wanted to make a home for the old man, Nazir. He was ten years old. He was young, thin, and short. He took straw to make a home.
Because it’s a sunny day, it’s too hot. He makes some parts of the home and then they don’t have more straw.
He and Nazir go looking for straw for the home.
He looks for straw, but he can’t find it. Then the old man was so tired and he needed water.
But there was no water. Johnny was worried. And he went to look for water but he can’t find water. Then Johnny had an idea, and he dug a hole and got water for Nazir.
Nazir drunk the water and then he went to look for straw.
Jonny found straw and made a home for the old man.
And at last, the old man lives in a home now.

~Two rising 7th graders from Afghanistan

*Lightly edited for grammar and spelling
Happy Again*
Energy. It’s what she is feeling in her body. Running makes Mamão different, strong and sometimes, happy. Running is the only way to make all her anxiety go away. She likes to run with the sun shining above her.
But today it’s raining.
And this is making her angry. Very, very angry.
People around her are looking at her, and she knows what they think about her.
“Poor Mamão,” each of them thought, “she was a good girl.” Their thoughts consume her.
“She has nobody.” And all their thoughts make her run faster. She is a happy girl, right? A lot of questions and just a lit bit of answers. But now, she just wants one of her mother’s hugs, one kiss of her father, and one smile of her fiancé.
But they are all dead.
Memories of them surround her, now some good and some bad.
But she knows that they are still with her, they didn’t go and they never will go away.
Putting one big smile on her face, she laughs and says:
“It’s time to go home.”
~Two rising 8th graders from Brazil

*Lightly edited for grammar and spelling