Students learn about Norristown immigration

By Nicholas Guldin
October 22, 2009

The Police Athletics League in Norristown is working to get more immigrants involved in its activities.

It is specifically helping young immigrants who are looking for some guidance as they become acquainted with their new surroundings.

Brett Wells, the director of PAL, held a discussion at a Mexican restaurant in Norristown on Oct. 13. Five Cabrini students attended the casual dinner discussion.

Those attending learned about PAL and how it is helping immigrants.

They also enjoyed a hearty Mexican meal, which was free, thanks to the Wolfington Center.

“Norristown has changed a lot since I was a kid,” Wells said.

When Wells was growing up the steel mill was the source of all jobs for everyone who was able to work.

“If you dropped out of high school you worked at the mill. If you went to college you worked at the mill,” Wells said.

Every person was somehow connected to the mill. It brought jobs to many people and boosted the economy for a long time.

In 1977, the steel mill went under and left a large portion of the townspeople without jobs. Without the mill and the ample amount of jobs it provided, many people decided to move away.

Today, Norristown has a large population of immigrants and it continues to grow. There aren’t a large amount of jobs for these immigrants, but the people of Norristown are very accepting of them. They believe the immigrants are hard workers and they help keep the economy steady.

PAL is a good buffer for the younger immigrants as their parents search for work. This program specializes in getting all kids, immigrants included, involved in all different types of arts and recreation. Police officers and volunteers work with all the kids and get them involved with sports like basketball, baseball, boxing, wrestling, track and lacrosse.

“We want to get these young kids off the streets and doing something productive. We don’t care if you have a social security number or if you don’t,” Wells said.

He emphasized the fact that it is extremely important for these kids to get good parental interaction. What better people to interact with then the police officers that protect the society in which they live in.

These younger immigrants have an extremely powerful role within their families.

“It’s amazing that the kids at home help their parents with communication to the outside world,” Wells said.

Most of these young immigrants pick up the language quicker than their parents so they play a key role to their survival in society by doing most of the translating between the parents and their bosses.

Wells said that PAL is not yet satisfied with the amount of immigrants they have reached out to. The young immigrants that do come are sent out as ambassadors to spread the good word about PAL with hopes that more of these kids get involved.

The transition from life in one country to another country is tough enough.

PAL is here to ease the process, one kid at a time.

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Nicholas Guldin

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