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Schools serve dinner, giveaway to immigrant families

Mary E. Hinds maryhinds@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Debbie Vaughn, who teaches English as a Second Language for Lebanon schools, was busy Thursday evening playing host to another dinner and "yard sale giveaway" for immigrant families at Byars-Dowdy Elementary School.

"We're expecting 75 families tonight," Vaughn said. "It's a way to wrap up the school year."

Her classroom was piled high with clothes for the children, which were distributed after a potluck dinner. The event also featured a raffle where children could win some extra special prizes including a computer, several bicycles, and a lot of children were eyeing an electric Harley Davidson toy motorcycle.

"This event is to equip them for summer with clothes and shoes," Vaughn said.  

Vaughn also heads a community outreach program to help Hispanic families. The organization is Community Involvement through Education and Literacy Organization or CIELO, which means sky or heaven in Spanish. CIELO helps local citizens learn to speak Spanish so they can communicate with the area's growing number of Spanish speakers.

"We are hoping to have a parenting class this summer, she said, adding that the class would be through CIELO.

Vaughn said the class was planned for June and would include the Dream Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) that would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal aliens of good moral character who graduate from American high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher learning, they would obtain temporary residency for a six-year period.

Byars Dowdy principal Louise Blackburn said the ELS program has been an asset for her students.

"It's been a great success," she said. "We want to serve our community. That's what we want to do for all our students."

Vaughn addressed the crowd in Spanish and then translated the pre-dinner prayer for their benefit. Then is was time to eat.

As the various dishes were unveiled the families and volunteers dug into a delicious meal accompanied by the sound of children's laughter. Jose Diaz, 4, attended with his big sister Laura, who is a 6th grader at Winfree Bryant Middle School. WBMS Principal Becky Kegley also attended the event and had high praise for Laura.

"She is one of our top students," Kegley said.

As always, Vaughn is looking for donations of clothes, shoes and toys for her ELS children. If you would like to donate, call her at 615-830-6728.

"Don't throw anything away," she said. "I will take any and everything you don't want or need, and 'recycle' it to our ESL kids and their families."

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