News Column

Immigrant Students Make Strides

June 8, 2012

Jorge Morales came to High Point, N.C., as a middle schooler from Mexico.

After several years serving his community and making the grades, Morales will graduate from High Point Central High School on Saturday.

Morales is one of about 6,000 immigrant students in Guilford County Schools. A large number of those students are graduating Saturday and have left a mark on their communities.

Morales spent his hours outside of school doing community service with the Latino Community Center and as the Students Against Violence Everywhere president.

"SAVE does a lot with safe driving," said Leslie Hallman Keller, Jorge's counselor. "One of their favorite things is the seat belt check where they give Smarties to students wearing seat belts and Dum Dums to the ones who aren't ... and they've seen a change and give away more Smarties."

Keller said Morales is one of 10 students other than the speakers who will sit on stage at graduation on Saturday.

"Mr. Christina, the principal, asked all the counselors for recommendations of students who don't necessarily have to be in the top 10 percent but that have done outstanding things and are role models for their classmates. Jorge will be up there."

Michael LaClair, lead ESL teacher for Guilford County Schools, said 200 limited-English-proficient students are graduating this year. LEP students, more commonly known as ESL students, do not represent the larger population of students who are no longer identified as ESL because they have met the exit criteria by demonstrating a sufficient level of language proficiency according to the WIDA ACCESS test that all ESL students are required to take annually to measure language proficiency growth. He said most exit ESL services before their senior year. The majority of ESL students come from Mexico Vietnam, Nepal, Pakistan and Sudan.

"We have remarkable diversity for the size of the district," LaClair said. "And we offer excellent programs as well."

GCS offers several programs and approaches depending on the needs of particular sites. One program the district offers is the Newcomer School, which is a special school for newly arrived immigrants in their first year of schooling in the United States. The program provides an educational, social, cultural and emotional bridge for students as they acclimate to U.S. schools.

ESL teachers also work as case managers helping to support students by tracking their progress in terms of language acquisition and academic success and implementing intervention strategies as needed.

"Jorge is a little guy with incredible dreams and the drive and determination to follow through," Keller said.

Source: (c) 2012 The High Point Enterprise (High Point, N.C.)

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