By Brian Zamora
In a campus as diverse as Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS), there are multiple cultural and linguistic barriers that may prevent cultural groups from collaborating with one another. In some cases, these groups are unable to connect with each other and fall out over their differences, caught in a web of negligence.
Some groups, however, are able to create ties which deepen interactions and relationships with other cultures. With enough progress, they can achieve cultural communication on a universal platform.
Enter GHCHS’ English Language Learners (EL) Program. With 142 current English Learners and roughly 200 who have tested out of the EL program on campus, the EL program is a vital branch of the student body for its multicultural composition, English instruction, and exposure to American culture.
“The English Language program provides students who come from different countries with a very strong community. The program allows students to be very involved in school, and goes to show how valuable education can be,” English teacher Kaitlin Mogan said.
When immigrant students first enter GHCHS, they are assessed to evaluate their command of the English Language. The students are then placed in English Language 1 to 4, depending on the results of their assessments.
While the EL program only accounts for a small percentage of the student body population, the most notable factor that makes up the program is its amount of cultural diversity. In Mogan’s four years as an EL teacher, she has taught students from many countries including Honduras, Ukraine, Syria, China, and even Russia.
Perhaps the biggest obstacles that these students face are found when they first come to school. As new students at a school, many already feel as though they are excluded from the rest of the student body. However, the experience is even more challenging for foreign students.
“When I first came to the United States, it was very hard for me. But as I was able to learn English more, it became a lot easier for me,” junior Ester Joo said.
Many of the students in the EL program came to the United States not only to learn English, but also to receive a greater quality education than what they had in their home countries.
“In my country, you had to buy the textbook in order to learn, and you would have to carry it with you everywhere you went in school. Now, I have a locker and food available at school,” sophomore Shahla Sotoudian said.
Junior Mustafa Alamdi found his education even more dire before coming to the United States.
“In my country the teachers did not teach us; they would only give us the [textbook] for us to read,” Alandi said.
Much of the recent focus on EL classes has been used to familiarize the newly-arrived students to American culture. Outside of school, one of the ways that the students become accustomed to this culture is through the use of movies and music related to American culture.
Joo, for instance, listens to One Direction in order to help her understand English at a faster pace. Others, like Alandi, prefer to listen to hip-hop to improve English fluency.
In the EL program, there is undoubtedly a tight-knit community who supports each member, regardless of race or culture. Students can often be seen gathered in E-3 during nutrition and lunch, or talking to the EL teachers about what they did over the weekend.
“The atmosphere here is very different. In Korea, we were not allowed to talk at all, and I was surprised when I heard so many people talking when I first came [to the United States] This aspect creates a sense of community that makes it much easier to learn English,” Joo said.
The school provides a platform for all cultural, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds, which is evident in the EL program. It helps students learn that using your voice on campus is critical for expressing what you want as a student at GHCHS.