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Access Carroll hosts international students

Friday morning was busy at the Access Carroll building at 10 Distillery Drive in Westminster. The nonprofit is typically busy providing sliding scale medical and dental care to the uninsured in Carroll County, but on Friday the clinic was closed to normal clientele and open to international students for a first-time event in conjunction with Carroll County Public Schools.

More than 100 people were were in attendance by mid-morning.

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“You don’t know how these open houses are going to go, but this is pretty busy," said Tammy Black, executive director of Access Carroll. “It’s for the Carroll County Public Schools international office. These are all families for whom English is their second language. They want to connect them to health care.”

There are around 400 international students in Carroll County Public Schools, according to to Patricia Burns, coordinator of the school system’s international office. Most of them are Hispanic families, with others from China, Vietnam or Afghanistan.

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“We invited all international families to come here today so they can get free immunizations, free physicals, dental work. We have psychologists that are doing mental health assessments,” she said. “I have interpreters going around all over the place.”

That combination of interpretation and health services was a big attraction for Idalia Berudex, originally from El Salvador but living in Westminster the past 12 years.

Families line up to be seen by dentists as Access Carroll is hosts a clinic for Carroll County Public Schools international students on Friday in Westminster.
Families line up to be seen by dentists as Access Carroll is hosts a clinic for Carroll County Public Schools international students on Friday in Westminster. (Doug Kapustin/Carroll County Times)

“My English is not really that perfect,” she said through an interpreter. “I took four years of English, but it’s still hard.”

Berudex heard about the special clinic day through a flyer from Burns’ office and brought three of her four children, Romeo, 4, Alison, 8, who attends Friendship Valley Elementary School and 17-year-old Maricela, a junior at Winters Mill High School. It was the family’s first time at Access Carroll, but seemingly will not be the last.

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“This is great because I can’t afford dental services and as soon as I heard this, it really made my day,” Berudex said.

Burns is planning on making the day in the clinic an annual event, before school tradition, a response to the growing proportion of immigrant families in Carroll County Public Schools.

“We had 42 new enrollments in two months,” she said. “That’s huge, we’ve never had that many. That’s just this summer.”

Judy Jones, Carroll County Public Schools equity and inclusion officer, was also on hand Friday and endorsed Burns’s program as keeping with the school system’s strategic vision.

“One of our initiatives for our school system is to increase our outreach to our intentional families and our minority families. That is one of our pillars and goals for our master plan,” Jones said. “We want to bring in our families and let them know this is a community that will welcome them, will serve them and is setting them up to be successful in our school system.”

And those students and families are already thinking of how they can serve in turn.

“I want to be a nurse,” Maricela admitted, and not just a nurse.

“She told me she would like to work here,” said, Emma Bartow, a school system interpreter who knows Maricela. "She would like to work with immigrants like she is, to serve that population. She is receiving a service, but she is willing to give to the community something back.”

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