ELL Parent Center celebrates participation
Lizbeth (left) and Emily Jaimes occupy themselves this month before the first parent achievement awards held by the Niles Township English Language Learners' Parent Center at Niles West High School. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:20PM
The success of the Niles Township Schools English Language Learner Parent Center can be measured by both the year just past and the year ahead.
The completion of a fourth year of helping an increasing number of parents who are newly arrived from other countries was marked this month by the center’s first annual parent achievement awards.
Next year, the center has new programs and classes planned including a kickoff health fair in June. (See related story.)
But first it was time to pay tribute to the success of the year just ended. ELL Schools Parent Center Director Corrie Wallace has said that she believed there might be some fall-off or a leveling in terms of the participation in the center as years went by.
But the center continues to bring more and more parents to it as they receive various resources including programs and classes to help with assimilating into a new culture.
Held at Niles West High School, the parent achievement awards honored those parent “students” who completed classes and programs offered by the Niles Township Schools ELL Parent Center over the last year.
“We always celebrated the end of programs but this made it more special,” Wallace said. “Everyone seemed to be excited so I think we’ll do it again in future years.”
The center opened in 2008 after The Niles Township Superintendents Association created a funding plan. Eight of the 10 Niles Township districts support the program, although no one is turned away.
In this month’s celebration, 53 certificates were handed out to parent-students. They came to Niles Township with their schoolchildren from a dozen different countries.
During the celebration, Margaret Feit-Clarke’s intensive English students received a collection of their writings labeled Odes, Notes and Wishes.
“In my birth country, I was good at helping my mother,” writes one student.
“I was interested in working with my siblings. I loved watching dramas on TV. I didn’t mind sleeping late because I liked watching TV.”
“In my birth country, I was good at cooking. I was interested in helping people in need,” writes another. “I loved going to shop in Wal-Mart. I didn’t mind sharing my clothes with my senior sister because we are the same height and weight.”
Among other programs that the parents took in the last year to earn their special certificates were composition and literacy classes, reading for healthy families, citizenship, English as a second language and positive parenting.
They appreciated the closure that the celebratory event brought, Wallace said.
“They loved having the opportunity to meet with other people and to bring their families and friends to celebrate,” she said.
The Niles Township Schools ELL Parent Center Parent Achievement Awards is likely to become a staple event based on this year’s success.
Future celebrations should have representatives from more schools, Wallace said, and perhaps a visit from dignitaries such as the mayor.
“It was the first one and we were trying to pull everything together quickly,” she said. “Based on the response we got though, I don’t think it will be the last one.”