BOTHELL – Alieu Diaw encountered an entirely different culture and language when he moved to Bothell from Gambia, Africa in the spring of 2010 after being separated from his mother for 8 years. The Crystal Springs student was selected to attend the summer YMCA ELL Enrichment Day Camp and has participated for the past two summers.
"It’s fun," said Alieu. "You learn a lot and improve your skills for school." Alieu enjoyed going on the field trips, learning new things and making new friends. The camp has helped him improve his English language skills, learn about his environment and American culture, develop friendships, and have a different outlook on how things work in this country.
The Northshore School District has partnered with the Northshore YMCA since 2004, under the leadership of camp coordinator Jayne Ritter, to provide the English Language Learners (ELL) Enrichment Day Camp for elementary-age students to help prevent the loss of newly acquired English reading, writing and oral language skills during the summer, and allow the students to build social skills, understand cultural cues and connect their families with the community.
September reading test scores for these students have either maintained or increased from their June test scores. Teachers have reported that students who have participated in this summer program retain more of their English language skills over the summer, require less work to catch up and adjust to school when they return from summer, and they tend to be more comfortable communicating with teachers and classmates.
"While many of these students are struggling academically, they are not underachievers," said Sue Moeller, Northshore School District ELL coach. "They have a tremendous amount of potential and through this camp experience are given extended time to learn."
The district selects 60 students from the six schools that have the highest number of ELL students with the highest degree of difficulty with the English language. Academic data for each student is shared to help place the students with the appropriate reading level materials as well as information about students with special needs or other concerns to create an individualized curriculum and program. The district also provides access to trained professionals, facilities and lunches. Staffing, instructional materials, facilities, transportation, field trips, volunteer coordination, financial support and the program’s operation are provided by the YMCA. There is no cost to the students participating in the program.
One aspect of the program that has evolved since the program began is the Counselor-in-Training position. Former ELL camp students still want to be involved when they move onto junior high school and several have been asked to help with the ELL camp every summer. "It’s an excellent opportunity for kids to stay involved in something positive and mentor others," said Ritter.
The Northshore YMCA recently received a $30,000 donation from a community member to support the ELL Summer Camp.
For more information, contact Sue Moeller at (425) 408-7723 or Tom Weiss-Lehman at (425) 485-9797.