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What’s Going on at the Former American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro?

Source: Editorial Board

“What’s going on at the American Hebrew Academy?” 

This is the question on many neighbors’ minds who live by the school. 

For those who are not familiar with Greensboro, the American Hebrew Academy was built in a peaceful suburban neighborhood, where it is surrounded by many residential houses and a synagogue.

Unfortunately, due to financial issues, the American Hebrew Academy closed in 2019. Yet, the school still owns and maintains the 100-acre property. In June 2022, the American Hebrew Academy leased the buildings and grounds to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Agency for Children and Families (ACF), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for five years.

According to the American Hebrew Academy’s website, the DHHS has named this site the Greensboro Piedmont Academy. This academy will be used as transitional housing and a school for unaccompanied immigrant children who come into the United States illegally. 

The educational program for the academy is called the Greensboro Global Academy (GGA). On the official website of GGA, it states that students (ages 13 -17) will be provided educational services in accordance with the North Carolina Department of Education. Schooling will take place six hours a day, five days a week, except on federal holidays. 

The children were expected to begin arriving in July 2022 at the facility, but now there is no timeline for when this will open.

At a quick glance, these academies seem like cutting-edge programs. However, since its conception, the DHHS has not been transparent with community members about what is happening in the facility.

In August 2022, Congresswoman Kathy Manning wrote a letter to DHHS requesting additional information about the site and for there to be better engagement with the community. Almost a year later, rumors are filling the void of information with local community members wondering what is going on at the facility.

In April 2023, a memo was sent from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) confirming it had secured a site in Greensboro with up to 800 beds for boys and girls, 13-17. However, nowhere in this memo mentioned where in Greensboro this site was located and a current timeline.

Why all the secrecy? What is going on at this site?

On the recent Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend, protesters gathered outside the former American Hebrew Academy to speak out against the opening of this facility. 

Mike Ishii of Tsuru for Solidarity told the News & Record “There is a narrative that this is a safe haven. But actually what this is, is an influx site. And the history of children in these sites is that these are warehouses — these are congregate prisons for children.”

Satsuki Ina spoke out about her and her family’s experience with a similar facility during World War II. She said, “What happened to us was unjust and inhumane and un-American and they’re doing it again. Children should be allowed to go home to families that are already here and waiting for them.”

During the protest, Cecile Crawford, state director of the American Friends Service Committee, shed some light on Deployed Resources LLC and Deployed Services LLC, who are being contracted by the ORR to manage the facility. Crawford told the News & Record “They’re not contractors of child care, these are military contractors.” 

She also revealed that the plans for the Greensboro site seem pretty similar to the emergency intake site in Albion, Michigan that housed migrant children from Afghanistan and was managed by Starr Commonwealth. 

In the March 2022 article from ProPublica, they report children suffering from mental illness that was triggered by their time on the site, and some other children suffered from physical and sexual abuse from the Starr employees.

I hope this is not the fate of the children that enter Greensboro’s facility.

So, what are our next steps?

Put pressure on our elected officials to get us some answers. Reach out to Greensboro’s Mayor’s office at (336) 373-2396 and to Congresswoman Kathy Manning’s office at (336) 333-5005, and ask for an update surrounding the former American Hebrew Academy site. 

If you want to be more involved, reach out to American Friends Service Committee, Guilford for All, Jalloh’s Upright Services, Sudan House, Greensboro African Public Action Committee, or to North Carolina Asian Americans Together and ask how you can help their efforts. 

Remember, the only way we can make a change in our community is by being involved.

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