Eve Olimpo is a native French speaker from Montreal, Canada, and has lived in the US for 12 years. She is an interior designer working at Inhabiture in Palo Alto, a retail outlet for an architectural company which specializes in sustainable design and construction - “ we create beautiful and healthy residential and commercial spaces.” Eve works with clients to explain options in terms of green design and advises them on sustainable furniture and furnishing, products that are selected for natural eco-friendly qualities.
As a mother with four children, Eve learned English by knowing how to get by in casual conversation. She describes how scared she felt not being able to understand the language when she went to college and had to learn technical terms and a more "professional" way to express herself. She joined the certificate program in the Interior Design Department at West Valley College followed by the LEED Internship Program.
Eve firmly believes it is never too late to learn and that there are many training programs on offer in her field. She is inspiring, having found a path which is not just about aesthetics, but also provides customers with products that are good for their health as well as for the environment. Clearly she is doing something she loves and feels passionate about.
SV ALLIES Initiative ESL students
by Usha Narayanan
The video footage below was taken at Campbell Adult and Community Education (CUHSD) in Campbell, California and highlights the experience of adult English as a Second Language learners. The video was made possible by the ALLIES initiative. This initiative in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is engaged in forming a multi-sector alliance that brings adult education schools, community colleges, non-profit agencies, businesses, Workforce Investment Boards etc. to support better integration of immigrants and enhance their contribution to the economy through education and training.
photo by USDAgov/Flickr
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What makes a good citizen? What should be required of a citizen and how do you prove worthiness?
Last month, there was quite a rich conversation on KQED Do Now about immigration reform, as students examined the proposed changes to legal immigration to the United States and the path to obtaining citizenship. The discussion focused on immigrant rights and what policy should be put into place to attain citizenship. It invited a further question that examines more deeply the whole idea of citizenship and asks what makes a good citizen? What should be required of a citizen? Does the current application system measure worthiness or should different criteria be taken into consideration? Do you feel you meet these criteria yourself?
The USCIS website specifies what is required to seek US citizenship and clearly explains the value:
“Deciding to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decisions in an individual’s life. If you decide to apply to become a U.S. citizen, you will be showing your commitment to the United States and your loyalty to its Constitution. In return, you are rewarded with all the rights and privileges that are part of U.S. citizenship.”
But what is important here? Should a good citizen be able to demonstrate commitment through some kind of community involvement, like cleaning beaches, taking care of the environment, or community service? In other words are good character and social responsibility important?
How about social contribution such as skills and expertise or the ability and willingness to work, especially in areas where there is demand for labor.
The Change, a student-produced documentary on immigration
As the immigration reform bill begins to consume lawmakers in Washington in the coming months, students around the country had a head start to debate the issue online. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the lead Democratic negotiator, explains, "The American people have told us to do two things. One, prevent future flows of illegal immigration, and then come up with a common sense solution for legal immigration. And that's what our bill does."
The bill also makes changes to how foreigners can legally immigrate to the United States going forward. These changes are intended to make the process easier. However, only immigrants who came to the country before Dec. 31, 2011 can apply. To read more about the bill, you can visit to the KQED Do Now #75 prompt.
In Coppell, Texas, students at New Tech High @ Coppell overwhelmingly took over the debate last week in our weekly Do Now discussion. Educators Janelle Bence and Danae Boyd presented the activity to over 136 learners who all made compelling arguments about the issue. The majority of the conversation happened in the comments section of the KQED Do Now blog post. But, students also tweeted rich media that they produced, which consisted mostly of documentary and poetic videos about immigration.
Rookies in Ms. Bence's class debate immigation on KQED Do Now's website.
by Julia McGurk
If you grew up in California, the chances are you went to school with someone who would be categorized as Generation 1.5, and the chances are that you wouldn’t be able to pick them out from students who spent their whole lives in the US speaking English. In fact you have probably never heard the term.
Who is Generation 1.5? The term is used to describe students who are neither first nor second generation immigrants - hence, 1.5. They live somewhere between those two traditional terms and have a broad range of characteristics.
Generation 1.5 students could have been born here, but do not speak English at home with their parents. They might have moved to the US some time during the K-12 system from a non-English speaking country, or may have moved here from US territories where they grew up speaking a different first language. Depending on when they moved to the US, Generation 1.5ers may have limited literacy in their first language and also have limited English, especially for academic purposes. Again it depends on their education and cultural background, not to mention their home life.
In the video below, a student talks about how Generation 1.5 students feel lost between two cultures, not really belonging to either of them. (This is a conversation I’ve had in the past with so many Generation 1.5 students and clearly his classmates agree with him, judging by the finger snapping in the background.)
By Lori Howard
Business and labor leaders are showing support for an immigration reform bill proposed by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators which would affect approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who already live in the U.S. The reform being discussed includes the “Dream Act” which would create an expedited path to citizenship for young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, if they attend college or serve in the military. It is believed that fixing the immigration system will, among other things, boost the economy by documenting these young people and allowing and encouraging them to attend college and possibly work in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Major companies and organizations like Microsoft, Intel and the National Science Teachers Association, support the plan since there are more jobs than qualified applicants in these areas.
All the talk of educating undocumented immigrants seems to focus on the 65, 000 who graduate from American high schools each year. But what about the adults? Supporters of this immigration reform plan hope it will also offer adults a comprehensive path to citizenship, as well as educational and employment opportunities. The last immigration reform bill, IRCA (The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986), offered legal residency to undocumented immigrants with an option to pursue full citizenship after five years. It also provided billions of dollars for English and citizenship education so that applicants could learn about basic U.S.history and government, and be able to speak, read, and write simple English—all requirements for citizenship.
Courtesy The Marsh
Immigration reform is center stage right now – a top priority for President Obama’s second term in office. It is also centre stage for so many young people, many of our students here in California, who may be among the 11 million people in the U.S. without documents. They either came to theUS as young children or their parents immigrated to the US and remain undocumented.
Their stories form the basis of new musical called "In and Out of Shadows" at the Marsh Theatre in San Francisco, performed by members of the Marsh Youth Theatre group. Written by Gary Soto, it is based on interviews with undocumented teenagers from diverse ethnic backgrounds living in the Bay Area, who describe how their dreams for the future look really bleak without papers. No college would accept them. No employer could employ them. They would be invisible.
For example, Homero Rosas came to San Francisco from Mexico when he was 6 years old. “My parents would tell me I wasn’t from here, but up until then I didn’t know what that meant,”….. “I didn’t know it meant I couldn’t get financial aid, I couldn’t get a job, I couldn’t aspire to anything, really. I felt trapped.” His story is dramatized through his character, Juan.
images from ESL Speak (eslspeak.wordpress.com)
by Gregory Keech
Imagine yourself in Beijing, or Cairo. You did not finish high school in your home country. You know nothing of the language, and you don't even know the script. You are working full-time, perhaps at two or more jobs. You have a partner and several children, and maybe an elderly relative to care for. You have concerns about health care, childcare, and education for your kids. You go to school at night with 30 to 50 other students to learn the local language, but you miss class frequently because of all these other concerns. How long does it take you to attain college level written and spoken proficiency in the target language?
When people are having a hard time understanding why it takes ESL students some time to acquire the language, I often resort to this guided visualization. Monolingual English speakers usually have the same answer to the question: How long would it take you? Their answer is: Never. I could never do that.
There are number of misunderstandings about ESL and ESL students, but this is probably the most unfair. Immigrants are frequently expected to do things that native speakers would have trouble doing.
There are a couple of other common misunderstandings.
When I tell folks that I teach English as a Second Language, one of the most common responses I get is: "Oh, you must speak a lot of languages to be able to do that." As a matter of fact, many ESL instructors do speak one or more languages besides English, and this has its advantages, but it is tangential to ESL teaching methodology. While bilingual classes at the beginning level exist and are effective, large public ESL programs with diverse student populations usually start at the very beginning - in English. "My first name is... and "My last name is..." have a surprising amount of shelf life, but again, imagine yourself in Beijing. How long would it take you to figure out that Chinese does not put it together quite the same as English? 您貴姓？is not the same as 你叫什麼名字?
Siripat Nengchamnong is from Thailand and came to the US in 2005. She studied English at San Jose State University and took a Hospitality Management course at Mission College to prepare her for opening her own restaurant, the White Elephant in Santa Clara. Siripat describes how she enjoys the work because she loves to cook and to eat and to please other people with her cooking. She also loves to meet people from all over the world and compare experiences. But Siripat makes it clear that running a restaurant is very hard work indeed.