Gateway Technical College — the Delavan-Darien School District’s partner for English classes for Spanish-speakers — today was honored as one of more than 230 Bright Spots in Hispanic Education for its commitment to improving the educational attainment of Hispanics.
Alejandra Ceja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, made the announcement at the launch of Hispanic Heritage Month and in honor of the initiative’s 25th anniversary in Washington D.C.
“There has been notable progress in Hispanic educational achievement, and it is due to the efforts of these Bright Spots in Hispanic Education, programs and organizations working throughout the country to help Hispanic students reach their full potential,” said Ceja.
Gateway serves the needs of Hispanic students and community members in a number of ways, through outreach to academic initiatives and support. Outreach includes not only providing English Language Learner (ELL) education to the Hispanic community, but also to help further their education and career opportunities.
“Gateway is honored to be recognized by the White House for service to our Hispanic community,” said Gateway Technical College President and CEO Bryan Albrecht. “We recognize the importance of diversity and value the strength that all cultures bring to our learning environment.”
Highlighted in the nomination process was a groundbreaking, beginning level English Language Learner program developed between Gateway and the Delavan-Darien School District to provide local, no-cost ELL services to area residents at Phoenix Middle School in Delavan.
It was determined the ELL services provided on the college’s Elkhorn Campus weren’t being used to their full potential because of barriers presented by transportation, child care needs and a low comfort level among participants to engage in the learning at a college. Phoenix Middle School offered familiar, close-by surroundings and an appropriate learning environment for the adult students.
The district has had a number of parents take advantage of the program, said Ron Sandoval, Delavan-Darien’s director of bilingual and community education.
“Parents feel more comfortable to come into our schools and talk with teachers and principals with the English that they have developed in these classes,” Sandoval said. “I see more confidence in Spanish-speaking parents to come in and practice what they have learned.”
Once per month, the ELL students meet with English-speaking adults who are taking basic Spanish courses offered by Delavan-Darien schools at no cost, Sandoval said. The adult classes occur concurrently at Phoenix, giving both sets of students the ability to practice what they’ve learned and become teachers themselves.
Some district parents have repeated the basic ELL courses to continue practicing. Others have requested Gateway to add more advanced levels in the future, Sandoval said.
The program was developed to provide beginning-level ELL courses at Phoenix Middle School in Delavan, which resulted in increased enrollment in the adult courses and a higher rate of students from those courses connecting with Gateway’s intermediate and advanced-level ELL courses and its academic programs.
The ELL program in Walworth County increased 27 percent from Fall 2013 to Spring 2015, and 61 new students have engaged in the ELL classes at Phoenix Middle School in the first four semesters it was offered there.
Delavan-Darien has taken an active role in promoting the free courses through various channels, including its all-parent email system, website, social media sites and distributing Spanish and English flyers to students and at school offices and Delavan-area businesses.
As a Bright Spot, Gateway will be part of a national online catalog, which includes more than 230 programs which invest in key education priorities for Hispanics. It can be found here: www.ed.gov/HispanicInitiative
The initiative seeks “to leverage these Bright Spots to encourage collaboration between stakeholders focused on similar issues in sharing data-driven approaches, promising practices, peer advice, and effective partnerships, ultimately resulting in increased support for the educational attainment of the Hispanic community, from cradle to career.”
COURSES GOING ON NOW
English Classes for Spanish Speakers are going on now through December 16, from 5-8 p.m. at Phoenix Middle School.
To register or learn more, call Mike Troudt at 262-741-8306.
Students must be 18 or older and be Wisconsin residents.