Finding Refuge, Friendship, And Hope In An American Classroom

Feb 13, 2018

From an award-winning, “meticulously observant” (The New Yorker) writer, Helen Thorpe, comes a powerful and moving account of how refugee teenagers at a Denver public high school learn English and become Americans.

The Newcomers follows the lives of twenty-two immigrant teenagers throughout the course of the 2015-2016 school year as they land at South High School in Denver, Colorado, in an English Language Acquisition class created specifically for them. Speaking no English, unfamiliar with American culture, their stories are poignant and remarkable as they face the enormous challenge of adapting. These newcomers, from fourteen to nineteen years old, come from nations convulsed by drought or famine or war. Many come directly from refugee camps, after experiencing dire forms of cataclysm. Some arrive alone, having left or lost every other member of their original family.

Helen Thorpe is an award-winning journalist who lives in Denver, Colorado. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Texas Monthly, and 5280.

Originally aired in December 2017.