Getting Involved





Getting Involved

Refugee and Immigrant Services

  • Who are Refugees?

    According to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is “a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country.”

    Refugees come to the U.S. to escape persecution or dangerous situations such as war in their own country. They often leave their homes quickly, possibly fleeing danger. They rarely have time to make any arrangements, gather important documents, or say good-bye to loved ones. In fact, depending on the situation, they may leave their home and not know the fate or whereabouts of their family members, which causes a lot of stress. They often live in refugee camps in neighboring countries while waiting for their application for resettlement to be processed. The camps vary in the support and resources provided. Some camps may be well-established and have organized housing, food distribution, and education opportunities, while others may lack even the basics of clean water and sanitation. When refugees arrive in the U.S. they receive services and support from one of the ten national voluntary agencies that have contracts with the U.S. government in the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. They often have to learn a whole new culture and language without the support of extended family.

    Challenges Faced by Refugees

    Mental health is an area of concern for resettled refugees. Due to the extremely stressful circumstances typically associated with their departure from their own country and their journey to the U.S., Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a real concern when assisting refugees. Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to one or more terrifying events in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. It is a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma. This stressor may involve someone’s actual death or a threat to the patient’s or someone else’s life, serious physical injury, or threat to physical and/or psychological integrity, to a degree that usual psychological defenses are incapable of coping.

    Signs and symptoms of PTSD, as listed on the website include:

    • sleeplessness
    • nightmares
    • inability to get along with others, particularly in close relationships
    • paranoia and distrust
    • unwillingness to discuss or revisit in any way the site of the trauma
    • persistent, intense fear and anxiety
    • feeling easily irritated or agitated
    • having difficulty concentrating
    • feeling numb or detached
    • no longer finding pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
    • feeling helpless or “out of control”
    • experiencing intense survivor guilt
    • being preoccupied with the traumatic event
    • physical symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal distress, or dizziness
    • suicidal thoughts, plans, or gestures

    More information about how to assist refugees who are suffering from PTSD is available from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. If refugee students or their family members display these symptoms, it is important that the school and/or their sponsoring organization assist them in getting professional help and treatment. Work with school social workers or counselors to help students who are experiencing PTSD.

    Limited Formal Education

    Refugees often have lived for many years in a country with an unstable infrastructure due to extreme poverty, war, or disasters. This means that many children (and adults) may not have had an opportunity to attend school and learn basic skills in their own language. For older children and adults this can significantly affect their learning when they begin school in the U.S. In my district for example, we have many Somali students who begin ninth grade and have never learned to write in their own language — this presents an additional challenge when learning new vocabulary and English script. Students with interrupted formal education are not less intelligent than other students their age, and they do not need special education referrals to address these issues. They simply need an opportunity to learn basic skills and receive very skilled and intentional instruction to accelerate their learning. For high school students, they must complete in four years what mainstream students have 13 years to finish. (To read more about how to assess whether ELL students need Special Education services, see How to Address Special Education Needs in the ELL Classroom.)

    I would also like to underscore that refugee students do not come to us “knowing nothing,” as I have heard some teachers express in frustration. It may seem that way when they are compared with other students their age, but refugee students have learned skills in survival and decision-making through intense exposure to dramatic global issues that most of their peers probably have not experienced. They are capable of learning English and the skills necessary to be successful academically; it will just take longer than mainstream students and even other ELL students who have had formal education in their own language in their home country.

    Lack of Documentation

    Because refugees leave their homes due to crisis, they rarely have important documents with them that assist them in navigating U.S. culture. Refugees may lack birth certificates, vaccination records, marriage certificates, and educational transcripts. Most of these items are re-created and certified through the U.S. government resettlement process, but there still may be mistakes. Birth certificates may have incorrect years on them, and students may actually be older or younger than expected for a certain grade level. It is also interesting to note that some cultures do not place such importance on birthdays and documentation of birth, so when the refugee application is processed they are often given a birthday of January 1st. This may cause confusion in school records when the district enrollment shows two Mohamed Mohamed’s that have the same birth date. Working with these records requires careful attention on everyone’s part, particularly counselors and school administrators.

    One area that has been especially challenging in our district is the acceptance of high school transcripts from other countries. When placing ELL students in high school courses, counselors evaluate their transcript to determine if they have already successfully completed some required courses and to determine correct grade-level placement. If a student successfully completed biology in the home country, he or she does not need to take it again just because it is in English. Verifying transcripts from other countries can be difficult, especially when they are from educational institutions in countries that have experienced a lot of turmoil. The majority of refugee students who come to my district do not have a transcript from their own country, and even if they say they have completed required courses, counselors have no way to give credit for it. If a newly enrolling high school ELL student does not have an official transcript he or she is automatically placed in 9th grade. This has caused some distress in refugee students (especially older teens) who want to complete high school quickly and move on to college. Counselors who work with the student and family, however, can help them understand the benefits of four years of free schooling in English before they enroll in college.

    Parent Outreach

    As educators we also have an opportunity and a responsibility to help refugee parents understand the U.S. educational system and how they can best help their child succeed. In many other countries, the teacher is responsible for educating the child, and the parent is not expected to be involved. It is very different in the U.S., and refugee parents may not understand the expectations. Depending on their cultural background, they may be confused as to why the teacher would expect the parents to assist in educating their child. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a bilingual staff member or family liaison in your school to communicate effectively with refugee families and address areas of concern. The organization Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services (BRYCS) offers some ideas in Involving Refugee Parents in Their Children’s Education.

    Resettlement Challenges

    The federal government places refugee families in specific states and provides basic support for their resettlement. A representative from a local agency often identifies a place for the family to live when they arrive, and assists them with initial integration into the culture. Though refugees are entitled to a small amount of cash assistance upon arrival and are eligible to apply for additional time-limited assistance, it is necessary for most refugee adults to look for work very soon after arrival. Children are enrolled in school, and adults are encouraged to take ESL classes to learn English. As the family adjusts to their new life, they may decide that there are better opportunities in another part of the U.S. and relocate to another state. This has happened often in Minnesota, where family members have relocated to the Twin Cities area to be with other family members.

    Social service agencies often recognize the extensive needs of refugee families and enlist the services of translators, health professionals and established community members from the refugee’s country to provide the necessary assistance. A common area of concern in Minnesota is helping refugees (who mainly arrive from very warm climates) to find and wear appropriate clothing for the cold weather. Some of the things that we take for granted, such as how to turn on a stove or pay an electric bill, may be very challenging for refugee families, and they need support to learn the skills they will need in their new country (Source: Colorin Colorado, 2008).

    CSD Refugee Enrollment Process

School Orientation Videos




Resources for Specific Languages:

  • Arabic – عربي
    • Welcome Survey.  Get to know your student with this Welcome Survey translated into Arabic.
    • First Words.  A list of First Words such as Hello, Goodbye, Please, Yes and No.
    • Numbers 1-12.  Arabic numbers 1-12
    • Q & A.  Common classroom questions and responses.  (i.e. How are you? Do you understand?).
    • Useful Classroom Instructions.  A list of common classroom instructions (i.e. Open the book. Listen.).
    • Website List.  A list of websites to support classroom teachers supporting Arabic speaking students.
    • Elementary
    • Secondary
  • Kinyarwanda
    • Basic Terms.  An abbreviated pronunciation guide taken from the book Kinyarwanda for Beginners.
    • Phrase Book.  Hundreds of common phrases translated into Kinyarwanda with pronunciations.
  • Portuguese – Português
    • Welcome Survey.  Get to know your student with this Welcome Survey translated into Portuguese.
    • Web Resources List.  A list of websites to support classroom teachers supporting Portuguese speaking students.


An immigrant is a foreign national who is issued a visa to live and work permanently in the United States. In most cases, a relative or employer sponsors the individual by filing an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Immigrants come to the U.S. for a variety of reasons, such as joining family members or for educational and work opportunities, but not because they have a fear of persecution in their native country. They usually have time to make arrangements to leave their country — selling or renting their home, gathering important documents, making travel arrangements, and saying good-bye to loved ones. Oftentimes they are sponsored by family members who will assist them with basic needs and adjustment to U.S. culture when they arrive.

Resource Links:

For more information or to schedule trainings specific on how to support the academic and social emotional needs of students on Refugee status, please contact Beverly Herrmann at 801-826-5454 or

Board Meeting Schedule

PUBLIC NOTICE is hereby given that the Board of Education for Canyons School District will hold a regular study session and public business meeting at the Canyons District Office building, 9361 S. 300 E., Sandy, UT each month unless otherwise posted. The Board may determine to conduct some business during a study session. All business meetings will begin at 7:00 p.m. unless changed by the Board and appropriately posted for the public.

Please note that ALL DATES, TIMES and LOCATIONS listed on this scheduled are TENTATIVE and are subject to change at any time.  Please check this schedule often to be informed of any changes.

Unless otherwise specified, all meetings in the schedule below will take place as the Canyons District Office located at 9361 S. 300 E. in Sandy, Utah.

District Leaders

Dr. Rick Robins


Dr. Rick L. Robins is the superintendent of Canyons School District. Dr. Robins, who was selected by the Canyons Board of Education after a national search, brings 24 years of experience as an educator to his role as the chief executive officer of Utah’s fifth-largest school district. Prior to joining Canyons, Dr. Robins, who earned an Ed.D. from the University of Las Vegas, for six years was Superintendent of the Juab School District, based in Nephi, Utah. While there, Dr. Robins, who also was the Juab High School Principal from 2009-2013, helped oversee efforts to improve the district’s graduation rate to 97 percent, a double-digit increase over a 10-year period. Other innovations he led in Juab included a partnership with Arizona State University for blended-learning opportunities; the launch of a districtwide competency-based personalized learning model driven by a 1:1 technology initiative and standards-based reporting system; and the construction of the STEM-focused West Campus Innovations Center, funded largely through private and corporate sponsorships. Dr. Robins began his career as a history teacher at Copper Hills High in the Jordan School District and has worked as an assistant principal and principal in the Alpine, Nebo and Juab school districts. He was the 2012 Utah High School Principal of the Year for the Utah Association of Secondary School Principals, and in 2014 earned the Lexington Institute Superintendent Fellowship Award presented to innovative superintendents across the country. Dr. Robins was starting quarterback for the football team at Southern Utah University Thunderbirds from 1991-1995, and in 2013 was inducted into SUU’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He has four children and one grandchild.

Leon Wilcox

Business Administrator and CFO

Leon Wilcox is a seasoned professional with 20 years of governmental accounting experience, with an emphasis on financial reporting, budgeting, and auditing. As Canyons District’ Director of Accounting from 2009-2013, Wilcox was intricately involved with the 2009 division of $1.5 billion in assets of the former Jordan School District, and was responsible for establishing Canyons’ original and subsequent budgets. Wilcox, a certified public accountant who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Utah State University, also has worked nine years in the Granite School District and six years in the State Auditor’s Office.

Supervises:  Accounting and Budget Services, Facilities and Maintenance, Insurance, New Construction Budget, Nutrition Services, Purchasing, Payroll

Dr. Robert M. Dowdle

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and School Performance

Robert Dowdle has a Doctor of Education degree with an emphasis in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah, and more than 31 years of experience as a teacher and educational leader. He began his career at Mount Jordan Middle School, where he taught Earth Science, English and Social Studies. He later taught Advanced Placement Economics, U.S. History and World History at Bingham High School, and served as Principal of Jordan High School and Assistant Principal for Alta High School and Brighton High School. Dowdle has served in the District office for 11 years as Assistant Superintendent. This role has included various leadership responsibilities, including Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer. Dr. Dowdle currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and School Performance.

Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

Specialty Schools

High Schools

Elementary Schools

Middle Schools

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Statement

Canyons School District is committed to making this website compliant with the ADA. At this time, we recognize that not all areas of this website may be ADA compliant. We are currently in the process of redesigning and creating new website content to be compliant with the W3C Level Two guidelines. If you are experiencing issues with this website, please contact us here

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