Charters in the Mitten: Ann Arbor

Building bridges to trust and success

Picture the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan. You might be envisioning eclectic downtown restaurants, incredible shopping destinations, and of course, the Big House. But you probably aren’t thinking about the many incoming immigrant families. Well, neither are most schools positioned to serve those students. Thankfully, Central Academy of Ann Arbor is, and the results speak for themselves.

From Afghanistan, to Syria, to Iran, Mexico, Guinea and even Mali, Central Academy serves immigrant students from across the globe. Some of these students have witnessed destruction of their home and family, while others just struggle to acclimate to American culture. This unique trauma comes with unique education needs, and many traditional public school districts don’t have solutions for those needs, and as a result often turn those students away.

At Central, a student is more than a number on count day. They have emotional scars; they have a family, often who are experiencing a culture shock at every level - including the harsh Michigan winter. In response, Central opened the “Exchange Station.” What started as a simple cold weather clothing drive for students without these necessary items quickly snowballed into an anonymous and free program that has served nearly 50 families in its first year running. Providing coats, hats, gloves, boots, other clothing, and now prom dresses, food, lunch boxes and personal hygiene items, any Central parent can anonymously select items necessary to support themselves and their children.

It was amazing timing, coming to this country and finding Central Academy, because my family needed the help, and they gave us that unique assistance. -Mr. Aboud, (Central dad)

The program has had incredible success, and supports the school’s other efforts to help immigrants adjust to life in Ann Arbor. “The students that end up in our school are the lucky ones, because for us the focus is on the whole student,” said Dr. Luay Shalabi, Pricipal at Central Academy.

Whether it’s helping parents understand their rights, sharing the best grocery stores, or providing buddy systems for refugee students, you can rest assured Central Academy’s holistic support has positioned them as the first choice for immigrant families, with a waiting list to match.


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