High School First-Generation English Learners Spend Week at BCC

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A one-of-a-kind enrichment program for a group of first-generation English language learners from Central and South America, Africa and Asia is underway this week (8/18-8/22) at Berkshire Community College.

The students, who will be entering the 10th through 12th grades at Pittsfield and Lee High Schools next month, have come together on BCC’s main campus for an intensive summer program. Funded by the Massachusetts Educational Opportunity Program, the students’ training will continue throughout the upcoming school year.

During their week at BCC, the students are participating in various academic and social activities designed to enhance their language and math skills, and to foster team spirit and a sense of community. Central to the week’s activities and training is a technological literacy component.

Students will post their work on the program’s weblog and will continue to contribute to it during the coming school year. Blogging and working with multi-media provides the students with rich opportunities to improve their English skills by writing, speaking, listening and reading, while simultaneously gaining hands-on experience with tools essential in today’s professional world.

In addition to the academic components, students participate in workshops focusing on study skills and career planning, as well as healthful activities such as yoga and wilderness hikes. The students also attend an afternoon ropes course and a performance workshop with Gaia Roots, a popular African Drumming ensemble. Keynote speaker Carlos Saavedra from the Student Immigration Movement will offer the students a view of the world in which they can find their own voices and learn to advocate for themselves.

BCC student mentors, mostly from immigrant backgrounds themselves, work with the students from the program on a one-to-one basis and in small groups to provide support and build self-confidence. As successful college students and leaders committed to education and community service, the mentors also act as role models for their younger peers.

The mentors also receive an unprecedented learning experience of their own, not just from their association with the program students, but by working hand-in-hand with college faculty and teachers from regional schools in a nontraditional classroom environment.

In welcoming these high school students to BCC for a week of fun, learning and support, the organizers, faculty and students, in partnership with the Pittsfield and Lee district schools, hope to bring college into view as an option for a group of kids who might not have considered it otherwise.

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