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Jacksonville principal who was a refugee is now helping Ukrainian refugees learn English

Global Outreach Charter Academy is providing a 6 week ESOL course for refugee children.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — You may have a new kid in your class this fall. Ukrainian refugees are making Jacksonville home, but it’ll take some courses to acclimate to the U.S.

Families are not only in a new country, but they are having to learn an entirely new language with a different alphabet.

Global Outreach Charter Academy, also known as GOCA, is hosting a 6 week class to about 40 Ukrainian refugees who are learning English as their second language.

The students range from kindergarten to middle school, with a few high schoolers interspersed. The program is 4 days a week for 6 weeks.

Principal David Soroka says this is what their school was intended for. It’s called global outreach for a reason. 

They have Russian-speaking teachers, but the school goes beyond teaching. Soroka understands.

"My family, we were refugees. We came under as refugees because of persecution," Soroka said. "Not so much my parents, but my grandparents they definitely experienced some persecution as Christians in the former Soviet Union.”

He came to America in 1999.

Now he uses his position to help kids like him. 

One of the refugees in his school this summer is his niece, who was living in Ukraine with her family when the war broke out. Her father is still there.

"Having been in that situation ourselves, we know that when we came here it is kind of brand new. You don’t know a lot of people. You don’t know what is going on," Soroka said. "But the thing is what we couldn’t even begin to imagine is the level of horror and devastation they ran away from.”

They don't stay in the classroom all day. Recess in the gym provides a reprieve from the hard work ahead of them to establish their new life.

Classes go through the end of July. 

Soroka is a member of Living Stream Church is Jacksonville which has helped take in more than 150 refugees.

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