NewsLocal News


San Diego County schools begin welcoming Ukrainian refugee children

San Diego County schools begin welcoming Ukrainian refugee children
Posted at 2:02 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 17:15:21-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As Ukrainian families continue to cross into San Diego, refugee children are beginning to enter local school systems.

Early Wednesday morning, 14-year-old Dima Karpenko was getting ready for his third day of school.

“I'm going to school, and I'm nervous and exciting,” said Dima.

The journey to San Diego began after the Russian invasion. One cellphone photo sent to ABC 10News was taken moments before Dima, his sister Nika and mother Tatiana, drove from their home in Lviv to the Ukrainian-Poland border. His older siblings stayed behind.

Tatiana, a single mom who worked in a grocery store, spent the last of her savings to get to Tijuana before they crossed into San Diego two weeks ago. The family is now staying with Tatiana's brother.

Almost immediately, they contacted San Diego Unified to enroll the children in school.

Based on where they were staying, the children were assigned to Lewis Middle School in Allied Gardens.

Just weeks removed from enduring a war, Dima was enrolled in the 8th grade.

“Sometime I hear sirens and see bombs in my dreams,” said Dima. “School helps me to go normal life.”

His 13-year-old sister Nika enrolled in 7th grade, was more apprehensive about school. She had studied English for many years but rarely spoke it.

“Being in school is scary. Don’t understand much,” said Nika.

The school district did provide one translator for the two of them, along with school supplies and donated clothes for P.E. class.

“Very unexpected, so grateful. My kids can start a happier life,” said Tatiana Parpula.

Parpula says the kids felt so welcomed, they felt 'almost famous,’ because so many students wanted to meet them.

ABC 10News reached out to San Diego Unified to find out how many refugee children have been enrolled and the process behind it, and are waiting to hear back.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help with the family with expenses.