Tearing Down Walls

ELD Students Strive for Success Amidst Challenges

Miguel Villegas, Reporter

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Arriving from another country can be overwhelming, leaving everything you ever knew and starting from zero, while also having to learn a new language most of the time.

The students who go through this wake up every morning hoping for a change, sometimes wanting to go back to their old homes. But King City High School is determined to help these students and integrate them to this new world that they have to fight each day, against prejudices and stereotypes. But what kind of help does KCHS give to these people who are new to a foreign land?

English Language Development (better known as ELD) is a program King City High School offers for students who migrated from another country and are trying to adapt to a new culture here in the US. According to Ms. Kacey Cawley, one of the counselors on campus, about 10% of students at King City High are in ELD, ranging from “fresh-of-the-boat” meat to “older dogs” alumni, coming from around the globe.

Even though many of these students have different backgrounds, they still have basically the same priorities in mind: reclassifying and going to college.

Mitz Palima, a new student at KCHS from the Philippines, is categorized as an ELD 3 student (the highest and final step on the ELD ladder). “I am experiencing culture shock,” she stated. “However, ELD has taught me to be open minded and to not get discouraged by challenges like language and school.” On the other hand, Ada Flores is coursing her senior year at King City High School and is also in ELD 3.

She is planning to go to college. “My priorities are to learn more advanced English, better my writing and the way I speak it,” Flores declared. “I also want to reclassify so I can get better classes.”

Teachers play a vital role in terms of the integration of these students to an American school environment. Mr. Jose Guerrero, for example, teaches ELD 1 and 2. He says some priorities for an ELD students are to be comfortable in English, to be able to read, write, speak, and understand the language. “The main priority of an ELD students is being able to pass the EL-PAC test, pass their SRI and pass the benchmarks,” he stated. “So, their main priority is to be able to be what’s called, reclassified.”

Last year the requirements for reclassification changed. Mrs. Michelle Silva, ELD specialist of the South Monterey County School District, explained, “The EL-PAC (English Language Proficiency Assessment for California) replaced the CELT, making the test more rigorous. It has more reading, more writing aligned to the type of writing ELD students would see in their classes and an audio similar to a teacher’s lecture in a class; let’s say, like history.”

Also, the overall score that needs to be achieved is a four, which in ELD lingo translates to perfection. “But everything can be achieved with effort,” Silva stated.

Being reclassified is one of the biggest achievements ELD students can accomplish, either because they can take more higher classes or because they want to prove the world that they can survive by themselves in the American biosphere. The idea that “differences” sets them apart from the rest can be devastating to their future.

“Students in ELD 1 and 2 are very motivated for college,” Guerrero said. “But students who have been in ELD for so long can get discouraged.”

“Around 50% of ELD 3 students are planning to go to college but it is a much smaller number who wants to go to a university,” Cawley explained. “It is very rare when a student has enough English grasp that they can go straight to a university,” she added. Most of ELD students that moved from another country migrated because they were seeking a better future, but seeing the almost impossible path they need to walk can be overwhelming.

Being in ELD is a struggle; only the people who have lived it know what it is like. It can feel like you need to forget about your mother-culture and wear a mask where you hide your accent (and in some cases your skin color). Having a change of environment doesn’t mean you have to throw away the dreams you were fighting for. Being in ELD is not an indicative of your success or the path your life must take.

I was in ELD at the beginning of the year, but I decided I wasn’t going to let that stop me, so I decided to fight until I was reclassified, and I did. Being in ELD doesn’t mean you are less intelligent or a troublemaker; rather, it means that you decided to take a chance, a leap of faith and risk everything that you ever had. It may be a rocky path, but no one is alone in this journey. Whether you speak Spanish, Arabic, or Bisaya, no one is alone, because that is the point of ELD: to teach communication and being oneself in another language and to comprehend that people are different, yet the same as one.

So no matter how many walls are built upon the path of these students, we give the the weapons to tear them down.