Working with Immigrant Students in Schools: The Role of School Counselors in Building Cross-Cultural Bridges

Article excerpt

School counselors are poised to play a significant role within comprehensive school counseling programs in addressing the needs of immigrant children in schools. The authors describe how school counselors can have a positive impact on the adjustment of immigrant students by building cross-cultural bridges through the use of cross-cultural simulations and activities.

Los consejeros escolares se encuentran en una buena posicion para jugar un papel significativo dentro de los programas exhaustivos de consejeria escolar que tratan las necesidades de los ninos inmigrantes en las escuelas. Los autores describen como los consejeros escolares pueden tener un impacto positivo en la adaptacion de los alumnos inmigrantes por medio de la construccion de puentes interculturales a traves del uso de simulaciones y actividades interculturales.


Schools in many cities across the United States of America serve a growing number of immigrant students (H. Kim, Rendon, & Valadez, 1998; Lee, 2001; Williams & Butler, 2003). To fail to address the counseling needs of immigrant students is to ignore the social, psychological, linguistic, and academic issues these students encounter in the cultural adjustment process (James, 1997; Portes, 1999; White & Kaufman, 1997).

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of articles published about immigrant counseling issues (e.g., Bemak & Chung, 1997, 2003; Roysircar-Sodowsky & Frey, 2003; Sciarra, 1999; Williams & Butler, 2003). However, we maintain in this article that not enough attention has been paid to the school counselor's role within a comprehensive school guidance program. The focus of this article is on the distinctive needs of immigrant students, the role of school counselors in the successful adjustment of these students' to school in the United States, and the importance of developing programs and activities proactively within a comprehensive school counseling program that will intervene in a way that prevents problems from escalating as a result of cross-cultural migratory adjustment. Most practical in this approach to working with immigrant students is our suggested use of cross-cultural simulations and activities. We suggest experiential activities that allow participants to examine multicultural issues in a safe, enjoyable, yet highly effective way (B. S. K. Kim & Lyons, 2003). The activities facilitate healthy cross-cultural adjustment experiences for immigrant as well as native-born students in U.S. schools. In addition, through that process, the cultural learning experiences of teachers, administrators, and school communities are enhanced. We emphasize the enhanced role of school counselors as builders of "cross-cultural bridges." By using cross-cultural simulations and other similar activities, the counselor can be effective in facilitating positive cross-cultural understanding and appreciation among immigrant students, their families, their peers, teachers, school administrators, and staff'. It is important to realize that although immigrant groups share some similarities, all students are unique and should be viewed as individuals as well as within the context of their cultural and family systems.

the multicultural school counselor's constituents

Counselors who work in schools have as their mission the promotion of student development, welfare, and success. Combined with the training they receive in human development, relationships, and counseling skills, school counselors are in the best and most opportune position to promote cross-cultural understanding (Lee, 1995). In particular, comprehensive school counseling programs within many school contexts have long been recognized as natural vehicles for building and nurturing school environments (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000; Lee, 1995).

Recent articles in the school counseling literature affirm the notion that school counselors and comprehensive school counseling programs play an essential role in multicultural issues and education (e. …