LOS ANGELES — As a record number of unaccompanied minors cross the border, agencies in Los Angeles are helping.
Inside a classroom at Nuevo Amanecer Latino Children's Services, a nonprofit that offers education and treatment for unaccompanied minors, sat a 6-year old girl who crossed into the U.S. alone. Next to her was Sophie Szew, an 18-year old high school student who has volunteered at Nuevo Amanecer since she was 12.
Szew's grandmother works at Nuevo Amanecer, and when Szew came to work with her, she was instantly drawn to the classroom.
“It was 30-40 kids, and I remember falling in love with all of the kids," said Szew.
Szew is now an assistant volunteer teacher, spending about 10 hours per week at the organization helping kids with everything from math to learning English.
The children who attend class at Nuevo Amanecer are in foster care while they wait to be adopted or reunited with their family members. Szew explained how it was one experience in particular that pushed her to come back — an encounter with 3-year old girl who asked her whether someone was going to adopt her.
Szew noted that one of the most important things people need to remember when hearing about children at the border is to have compassion.
"A lot of times, parents send their children here hoping for them to find family here because their options in their country, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico Guatemala, most of Central America, it’s either join a gang or be killed by a gang,” she said.
Szew is hoping that sharing what she’s learned will help others understand the situation a little better.