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Newcomer Academy hosts ESL-focused vaccine clinic

Juana Sarmiento and her children 8th grader Christian and 5th grader Katie all get ready to get a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Juana Sarmiento and her children 8th grader Christian and 5th grader Katie all get ready to get a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Jefferson County Public School students and their families gathered at Newcomer Academy Saturday morning for another one of the school district’s vaccine clinics, where people could get their first, second or booster COVID-19 shot or their flu vaccine. However, this particular clinic focused on those who are a part of the English as a Second Language (ESL) community. 

Newcomer Academy is an ESL-focused middle and high school. The school helps 6th to 10th-grade students who are learning English acclimate to the community on a language, educational and emotional level. Students usually attend the school for one to three semesters to adjust before transferring to another JCPS school. 

This isn’t the first time Newcomer has hosted a vaccine clinic. The school participated in previous JCPS-wide clinics, as well as previous ESL-focused clinics. 

JCPS officials say that with every clinic the number of participants grows.

“Our families are calling their friends and then they realize what a good experience they’re having and we’re getting more and more participation every time we have a clinic,” said JCPS Health Services Nurse Practitioner Angela Hayes. 

Gwen Snow, Newcomer’s principal, said that this focus has made the school a community space for Louisville’s ESL and immigrant communities.

“It’s a comfortable place for, maybe a new family to come,” Snow said. “They might not know where this place or that place is, but they might know where Newcomer Academy is.”

Sign-in forms were provided in several languages, including Spanish, Somali, Arabic and French. There were also interpreters provided to help attendees communicate through the process. 

By providing these additional resources, Snow hopes to alleviate some of the pressure families could feel. 

“For a family that is new to the United States, you can imagine there’s so much on their plates right now, just making sure that they pay the bills, they can get around, they got child care, they understand how the new systems work and vaccines and all of that is just one more thing on the plate,” Snow said.

Having the clinic at Newcomer with forms in multiple languages, interpreters and no insurance requirements, many of the barriers that would normally stop a family from vaccinating are removed. 

Juana Sarmiento brought her children, 8th grader Christian Ruiz and 5th grader Kaite Ruiz-Sarmiento, to get their first dose of the vaccine

She hopes that by getting them vaccinated they will have milder symptoms if they get sick, and will be able to participate in the Adelante Hispanic Achievers program and travel easily.

She had her reservations about the vaccine.

“I tried to get vaccinated myself first, kind of experiment (on) myself first before my children,” Sarmiento said via an interpreter. 

Her son Christian’s reservations came more from his concerns about the pain associated with the shot.

“At first I thought it was gonna be a little bit worse than it was gonna be, but when I got the shot it didn’t hurt at all. Just hurt, like a little sting,” Christian said. 

He was also worried about the possibility of more variants of COVID-19 affecting him.

“Since there’s gonna be new variants (of COVID-19), I wanna get less symptoms,” Christan said. “I wanna be more healthy if there are gonna be more variants."

Kaite, Christian’s little sister, was excited to share with her friends that she had gotten her vaccine.

“I felt how it is and they’re scared. I’ll be like, ‘it didn’t hurt that much’,” Kaite said. 

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.