English Learner club offers after-school study
|Alice Li was born in Haikou on Hainan Island, China but she and her mother now make their home here in Susanville.|
|Diamond View student, Carolina Alvaraz, right, helps younger students, Aramae Daniel and Charity Wengu, both from Micronesia, with their homework. Photos by Jordan Clary|
Nov. 13, 2012 — Susanville School District’s English Learner (EL) homework club held after school every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at McKinley School might be the most multicultural happening place in the county.
Glance around the room and you’ll see students whose families came from Mexico, Vietnam, China, The Philippines, Micronesia and elsewhere. Some of the students were born in one of these countries, some were born over here, but nearly all are first generation English speakers.
The students range from first to eighth grade and come from Meadow View, McKinley and Diamond View schools. Some sit on the floor reading, a small group might be at a table while a parent volunteer helps them with math. The older children help the younger ones with their homework when they’re caught up with their own.
The room is noisy, but it’s the sound of conversation and engagement. Both students and parent volunteers seem to enjoy being there.
Claudia Dunlavy, EL coordinator and Title VII coordinator has a contagious enthusiasm for the program.
“It’s a way of honoring the cultural diversity in this community,” she said. “The kids learn to appreciate their own culture, as well as others here.”
Many parents volunteer at the homework club, and in some cases, the children help with translation.
As more families and individuals from various countries, cultures and ethnic backgrounds move into Lassen County, Susanville schools are responding in ways to not only help EL students succeed academically, but to help all students learn to appreciate our differences and be better citizens in a world where diversity is the norm.
Sherry Snyder, a Susanville School District teacher who died two years ago, began the EL program several years ago.
More recently, Dunlavy has taken Snyder’s master plan and has helped the program grow succeed.
She said, “It’s an honor to follow in her footsteps and to help keep the program up and running.”
Dunlavy’s assistant in the classroom, Tammy Friend, also contributes to the homework club’s relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. She said her favorite part of the job is watching the students grow.
“I love to watch when they get something they didn’t understand and they get that little glee in their eyes,” she said.
People immigrate to Lassen County for the same reasons most of us come here: clean air, a small town atmosphere and friendly people.
Susan Lin, who originally came from Guangdong, China, and more recently lived in Oakland, said she came here because it was a safer place to raise her daughter, Alice.
“The people here are so nice,” she said. “And the area is so beautiful.”
Dunlavy said diversity comes not only from other countries, but also from within our borders. The Title VII program she also coordinates is a federally funded program to support Native American students both culturally and educationally.
Recently, she accompanied several students to Reno where they visited the Nevada Museum of Art and the University of Nevada for a talk on higher education.
Susanville School Districts EL program is more than the homework club. It also provides support in the classroom and help for new students coming from different countries and backgrounds to transition into their new surroundings.
The homework club, however, is a dynamic part of the program because it’s a place for students and parents from all three schools to help and support each other.
“We need this after school program,” said Lin. “It helps our children to do better in school, and it helps us as well.”
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