This is a guest post from the powerful folks at the Oakland Unified School District’s English Language Learner and Multilingual Achievement Office (ELLMA), who are doing some amazing work. It originally appeared on their blog, where they spotlight Oakland teachers and students and the diverse strategies they’ve implemented to support English-language learners in achieving at high levels and graduating ready for college, career and community.
We talked to three seniors on the cusp of graduating from Rudsdale Newcomer Program as part of the school’s second ever graduating class. The school holds graduation twice yearly, allowing students who work to earn a high school degree as soon as they complete the number of credits required. Read on to see what’s on their minds!
ROELMER, ORIGINALLY FROM GUATEMALA
I was here when the school first opened last year and next week I will graduate. I went to Castlemont high school before I came here. My teacher told me about this because he knew I was working. He told me it is so close by and will make things easier, so I decided to try it out. A lot of my friends are still there, but this schedule is much better for me. I have to start working at 3pm and I finish school at 2:30. If you need to work and go to school at the same time, this school is really helpful. All of the assignments we have we can finish during school. We have extra time to get it all done.
After I graduate first I want to go to college. My goal is to become a dentist. I hope I can achieve that goal. I want to keep working for now and then I can start in community college already in January. If I have questions about college, I can just ask teachers here and find out how to find out about the process. There is a lot to know.
This school gives you a lot of internships. I went to Highland Hospital. It was a really good experience because I got to see how the dentists work with the patients, all the equipment and stuff they use. It was very helpful for me to realize that it’s something I want to do in the future.
LAURA, ORIGINALLY FROM GUATEMALA
I’m graduating next week, just one week left! There was a lot of students where I was at Castlemont High School, and here it’s a small school. I think it’s much better here, you get to know each other and share things with the teachers. When I came here I knew a few other students also from Guatemala. I knew them from home.
Now I have more time to spend with my brother in the morning, since I start at school at 9:30 here. After school, I work in downtown Oakland at a Chinese food restaurant. I’m not totally sure yet what I will do after graduation, but I think I want to take class to be a carpenter or electrician or go to college.
My teachers here are so nice, they help me a lot. Ms. Sarah has helped me so much. I really love camping. We went to Point Reyes, backpacking for three nights. It was really cold and rainy, but we had so much fun. That was my favorite part.
NAYELI, ORIGINALLY FROM MEXICO
Here is elected schedule so it really helps. When I changed to this school, I was working five days a week. So I was tired and I was late all the time. The full schedule was too much, and Castlemont was too big, so they recommended this school to me.
This school is different. It is small and the teachers pay attention to you. Here they help us to learn English more. Most of the other students here are from Guatemala. It’s a different culture and tradition from Mexico, so I learned a lot from them.
Mr. Johnson’s class is one of my favorites. He explains more about algebra, so we can understand. I also love the field trips, especially camping. Camping is the best because I love nature and I love being in the woods.
I want to go to college and study kids so I can work in a preschool. I will go to community college, I always thought I could do that. Advice I would give is look for when somebody is sad or tired. I don’t like to see that so I always tell my friends ‘get up’, and try to make them be happy. I think everybody needs to help each other to get by.