Published December 5th, 2022 at 2:41 PM
On the day after Labor Day last year, Kansas City Public Schools embarked on a mission to better serve the immigrant and refugee children coming through its doors. It was then that the district opened its Global Academy, which serves elementary school-aged children.
Ryan Rumpf leads the initiative as the program administrator, and he is passionate about making the academy a launching pad for the success of these new Americans.
“We want them to grow, to be literate, to be bilingual, and to be respected. And we want to be the center that makes all of it happen,” said Rumpf, who has spent nearly two decades in education, including time at an international school in Vietnam and at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
The academy launched with 35 students and it was just a matter of months before it reached capacity with more than 100 students. The academy, located at the district’s International Welcome Center at 711 Woodland Ave., works with four elementary schools in the Historic Northeast section of the city.
It was at DESE where Rumpf recognized the disparate quality of English-as-a-second-language programs around the state. He sees the academy as a prototype for others to follow.
“What drives me,” he said, “is to really be a model to show Missouri, to show the Midwest, what can be done with this particular group of students.”
And perhaps, Rumpf said, the academy’s influence can expand even farther as it tailors services to its wide range of students. Some of the students have never heard English before, some have a strong academic background and some do not. The academy has the opportunity to develop skills for the students in English and their home language.
“If we can pull that off,” he said, “we would be a model for many districts around the country.”
The Global Academy also heavily involves parents.
Students of the Global Academy come from many countries in Latin America as well as from Africa. Specific countries of origin include Afghanistan, Morocco and Cuba.
Pushing to assimilate those new to America, the academy offers more than an education, such as transporting the students to and from their home school, getting them to the doctor, and even getting mental health counseling for the students to help them work through past experiences.
Therapy is one area where there is room for improvement at the academy, Rumpf said, “because 100% of our students have experienced more trauma than anyone living here could probably imagine.”
Rumpf has walked families to a nearby clinic to ensure they are comfortable walking through the doors and that they get to the right area. He will also drive the bus to get the students to the academy.
“The Global Academy is the best school that I’ve ever been a part of, the best culture,” Rumpf said. “It is a place where everybody genuinely wants to help our families and our students be successful, and you don’t get that everywhere. So, it’s a lot more than a school.”
Aubrey Hughes is a reporter for the Kansas City Call. John McGrath is a video producer for Kansas City PBS.