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Immigrants worry about teenagers

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By Dawn Schuett

schuett@postbulletin.com

At a meeting Thursday to talk about immigrant issues in Rochester, Wachira Loth made a public plea on behalf of Cambodian parents trying to keep their teenagers in school and out of trouble.

Loth, a father of three and a licensed practical nurse and interpreter for Olmsted County Public Health, is a Cambodian immigrant who has been in Rochester for 25 years.

Although it might seem that it would have gotten easier for Cambodian families because they've been here so long, teens' problems are worse now than in the 1980s after families started settling here, Loth said. He spoke during a Rochester Immigrant Community Roundtable Dialogue, an event occasionally scheduled to discuss immigrant issues and concerns.

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It's "getting worse and worse for kids," he said. Drugs, gangs, suicide and teen pregnancy are some of the issues affecting teens, some of whom are dropping out of school, Loth said.

"Please help," he said, addressing his comments to about 35 other people at the roundtable dialogue. Others in attendance represented the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association, Catholic Charities and other social service agencies, businesses, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Somali, Sudanese, Latino and southeast Asian immigrant groups in Rochester.

After the meeting ended, Archangelo Nela, an elder in the Sudanese community, said similar problems are affecting Sudanese families

There may not be an easy solution to the problems, but Loth said he'd like to see the school district reaching out more to empower parents with the parenting skills they need to tackle these issues.

Loth used his own family as an example of how it helps to have parents and school staff working together. His oldest daughter, who is now in law school, had struggled during her senior year of high school. Loth said he worked with school staff to keep his daughter on track to graduate.

If schools work with parents to improve parenting skills, kids will be better off, he said.

"That's what I believe because it worked for me," Loth said.

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