Program connects Northeast ELL students to school, community
Aya, a 10th-grader, is finishing her second year at Lincoln Northeast High School after migrating from Iraq. She’s blossomed academically and socially since her first days as a Rocket. Her English has improved by leaps and bounds. She joined the Air Force Junior ROTC.
She still faces plenty of challenges adjusting to school and life in the United States, as do many of her fellow English Language Learner (ELL) students. But now those students have an additional resource at Northeast when challenges arise, thanks to ELL teacher Brooke David. This semester, she started an after-school club and mentoring program specifically for ELL students.
The after-school club and mentors are part of the Strive Program, through the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Omaha. Northeast received a grant to cover the costs of field trips, supplies and potential staff stipends for summer activities.
David said the club and mentors offer students the opportunity to form important connections not only with classmates and teachers, but with the larger Northeast and Lincoln communities.
“I think the after-school program is important for our refugee population because it gives them an opportunity to get involved in the school in a low-stakes way and in a way that can support their transition into the school and new community,” she said. “Many of our students work and don't always understand the way that U.S. school systems work. This club gives them a way to understand the importance of getting involved and getting connected to the school.”
David immediately heard from 15 of her Northeast colleagues when she emailed and asked for mentor volunteers - and not only from ELL staff. These mentors offer students another opportunity to build a relationship with a teacher. They talk nearly every day, even if only for a minute or two.
“They have someone who is checking in with them and can explain things they need to know about how school works in this country,” David said. “It helps them feel more welcome at the school and get to know other staff in the building.”
The after-school club meets every Monday for an hour. David and two of her colleagues - fellow ELL teacher Trevin Wurm and ELL counselor Kim Davis - host the group in her classroom. They set goals, explore potential careers and learn how to get involved in school and the community. It’s also a place to reconnect with each other.
“We have more higher-level ELL and no-ELL students attending and I think it might be a way for them to reconnect with the ELL teacher and students who they used to spend most of their days with,” David said. “I think the students like to have a time to get together and talk with the teachers and hang out with each other, especially those who are now more in the general education classrooms.”
One project the after-school club plans on finishing before the end of the school year is a series of short videos of club members offering advice to new ELL students who will attend Northeast in the fall. At their most recent meeting, students moved throughout the room and wrote their tips on big sheets of white paper.
One in particular caught David’s attention. Under the category of important things to know about Northeast, one student wrote, “Everyone is learning the same.”
“Ooooh,” she said. “I like that one.”
Published: May 10, 2019, Updated: May 14, 2019