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AISD welcomes Afghan students and families relocating to Austin

AISD is welcoming Afghan students and families through its Refugee Family Support Services Office. (Bob Daemmrich)

In light of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, Austin ISD announced the district is welcoming newly-arrived Afghan refugee students and their families on Wednesday.

AISD said the district's Refugee Family Support Services Office has been serving refugees and asylum seekers for years, providing resources and a language hub. Refugee Family Support Coordinator Salimah Shamsuddin discussed welcoming efforts at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The district doesn't yet know how many new Afghan students it will receive, as the numbers with Refugee Services of Texas change constantly. However, Shamshuddin said one of the district's points of pride is its diversity: There are over 700 refugee students that attend an AISD school, of which 300 are Afghan.

"Our district's cultural and linguistic diversity is a strength with students from all around the world and over 100 different languages spoken by our families," Shamshuddin said. "We appreciate the warm welcome and the show of support for our refugee families in the Austin Community."

Refugee Family Support Coordinator Salimah Shamsuddin discussed welcoming efforts for Afghan refugee students at 10 a.m. Thursday. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

The office offers day-to-day interpretation services in 19 languages—including Afghanistan's two most common languages Pashto and Dari—tutoring, social or emotional support and holds campus events targeted at refugee families.

Shamshuddin said when families arrive, the office has interpreters to help parents get their children registered for school in their native language, provides cultural orientation for parents and students to show what school in America looks like, and works closely with students and English-as-a-Second-Language teachers to help them integrate.

"We train teachers and do a lot of professional development about how to make your classroom more culturally competent and relevant, how to make it more inclusive—something as simple as adding a map in the background, and asking students, 'Hey, where are you from? Why don't you pin the country that you're from,' that can make the classroom inclusive," Shamshuddin said.

Shamshuddin said these resources are an important part of helping students and families integrate. In September, AISD will hold two training sessions for teachers focusing on cultural competency and emotional awareness of refugees.

"Providing that support, making sure that parents know what's going on in the classroom by informing them in their home language, I think that is really important," Shamshuddin said. "A lot of people forget that they're coming here from a different country, a different culture."

New refugees are being welcomed citywide—Austin City Council is expected to approve a resolution and direct the city manager to coordinate with local, state and federal entities in welcoming refugees, some of whom have already arrived, today.

Austin is preparing to resettle at least 185 Afghan refugees by the end of September, almost more than any other city in the state. Each of the incoming refugees has received a Special Immigrant Visa, and has undergone background and health checks.

This story was updated at 12 p.m. to include information after the meeting.


Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation

🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway