A warmer welcome

UND elementary education student raises funds to buy winter gear for young New American arrivals in Grand Forks

Anna Haberlack

Anna Haberlack, a UND students in the College of Education & Human Development and Twin Cities native, is surrounded by students at Winship Elementary in Grand Forks. Winship is considered an English Language Learner magnet school, which means quite a few of its students originated from non-English-speaking regions around the world. Photo courtesy of Anna Haberlack.

Adjusting to winter in Grand Forks is difficult, even for residents who have lived here for years.

But it’s much harder – and colder – on those who haven’t seen or experienced snow before.

UND elementary education junior Anna Haberlack learned just that during a multicultural class, when guest speaker Reggie Tarr, a native of Liberia, came in and shared his experience moving to Grand Forks. When his son was in school during their first winter, he learned that he couldn’t go outside for recess because he didn’t have snow pants. Neither he nor Reggie even knew what snow pants were.

A Twin Cities native, and therefore, cold weather veteran, Haberlack took it upon herself to help prepare some kids who needed winter gear. She used GoFundMe, a social media fundraising website, to collect donations for winter clothing that some of the students new to Grand Forks desperately needed.

“My mom told me recently that when I see a need for something or I’m passionate about something, I‘ll try my hardest to make something happen,” Haberlack said.

It worked out better than she could have imagined. She raised almost $1,000 in about two weeks.

Anna Haberlack

Haberlack used GoFundMe, a social media fundraising website, to collect donations for winter clothing that some of her students who were new to Grand Forks desperately needed. She and another teacher at Winship Elementary in Grand Forks worked with the local JCPenny department store to get many of her New American students ready for winter. Photos made possible by Anna Haberlack. Photos compiled by Brian Johnson/UND Today

The field (shopping) trip

Haberlack, who is also working toward her English Language Learners (ELL) endorsement from the College of Education & Human Development, has been observing in schools in Grand Forks, spending a lot of time at Winship Elementary. Winship is an ELL magnet school, which means quite a few students (who originated from warm-weather regions) there are still getting accustomed to winter weather.

Haberlack and one of the Winship teachers decided it was time to make a field trip to the local JC Penny department store.

The GoFundMe money Haberlack raised purchased more than 80 winter items for a handful of New American kids. They tried on clothes for themselves as well as siblings and friends who couldn’t be there. It was also a great opportunity to teach the ELL students essential winter vocabulary words, such as jacket, hat, mittens, scarf, and of course, snow pants.

“They’re getting out in the community, which is the biggest thing for ELLs,” Haberlack said. “In order to adjust, they need to experience it.”

The parents were thankful that an unsolicited effort was made to help the children transition into their adopted home, said Haberlack. Afterward, JCPenny received thank you cards from all of the kids.

Lasting impression

The experience left an impression on Haberlack, who believes more teachers need to go into ELL teaching. Whether or not you’re going to be an ELL teacher really doesn’t matter, Haberlack said. Every teacher will benefit from that classroom experience.

“We’re going to have these students in our classrooms no matter what,” Haberlack said. “I want to find a way to educate and help if I am a classroom teacher.”

But Haberlack, as a student, has gone a step beyond what most teachers do in the classroom. She found out firsthand what can be accomplished by reaching out to others, and managed to make Grand Forks a more inclusive place for new residents. That urge to help is one of the reasons she became a teacher.

“Teachers have made such a big difference in my life, too,” Haberlack said. “I eventually want to do that for my students. I want them to know I’ll always be there.”

Haberlack still keeps in contact with several of her past teachers between semesters, and that will probably be the case years down the road as her students succeed in life.

“One of the kids told me a story about playing in the snow and having to throw away her pants because they were ruined,” Haberlack said. She said, ‘Thank you for snow pants; I don’t have to throw them away anymore.’


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