Welcome Warriors get to know each other in Linnea Burgevin’s resource classroom. Clyde A. Erwin Middle School Stronger Through Diversity By Tim Reaves, Digital Communications Specialist Erwin Middle School is proud of its diverse and welcoming student body. “You’re going to see kids from all over the world,” said Erwin principal Christopher Thompson. “It’s a melting pot of students and cultures within the school. And even though a lot of kids don’t speak English as a first language, they find their place where they fit in. Students are very accepting here.” “If you’re a newcomer, you might be nervous that you won’t make any friends,” added Ariana Hamilton, another eighth-grader. “This program is a confidence booster.” Welcome Warriors also helps the mentors, said eighth-grader Taylor Berry. Erwin Middle School students took a tour of the UNC-Ashville STEAM Studio in October 2017. In an ever-broadening world, it’s more important than ever to be culturally literate, to be able to work with people from diverse backgrounds, Thompson said. “Here they see it every day,” he said. Last year, the school started Welcome Warriors, a mentoring support program that pairs new arrivals with students who speak the same language. Welcome Warriors are bi- and tri-lingual students, as well as those who only speak English. That way, newcomers can get help with their initial transition and practice English with someone they trust. “I get to meet new people, and it feels good to have someone trust you,” she said. With 18 different languages represented at Erwin Middle, a welcoming environment is essential, said Linnea Burgevin, who coordinates the Welcome Warriors program with Erwin and the United Way of Asheville & Buncombe County. Erwin hosts multicultural celebrations where families share their food and culture. “The students feel recognized for their cultural background in the school setting,” Burgevin said. “It’s awesome.” “It helps kids feel not so isolated when they’re new,” said Olivia Roberts, an eighth grade mentor. 14 “It gives you a buddy to work with if you get stuck on something with homework or getting around the school,” said Yareli Rivera, a seventh-grade mentor. “It helps you improve faster.” Families from more than a dozen language groups call the Erwin District home.