The Clarke County School District has a diverse student population, with 17% whose native language is non-English. The families of these students often find it difficult to receive important information in their language, however in recent years, CCSD is making changes to help these students.
On Friday, December 13, CCSD alongside U-Lead hosted Cena de Padres at Cedar Shoals High School. Student organizations partnered with U-Lead to provide information about resources to support non-English speakers.
“In past years with my older son, there weren’t many events and help. I think it’s because there weren’t as many Spanish speakers as there are now,” said Ricardo Ventura, parent of a Class of 2018 Cedar graduate with five other children in CCSD schools.
Dr. Melissa Perez-Rhym, assistant principal of Clarke Middle and co-director of U-lead Athens, hosted the event. Ms. Ariel Gordon and Ms. Courtni Reese, representatives from the counseling department, were also present. They talked with parents about scholarships, financial aid and college advisement.
“As students grow older and go into high school, it becomes harder for parents to stay engaged in their education and to know about all the services the schools offer them to help students be successful. That difficulty in staying engaged is compounded when you also have a language barrier,” Perez-Rhym said.
While Cedar Shoals hosted a similar event two years ago, the event held Friday was a trial run for future ones. Next semester Clarke Central High School will hold a family night for the Westside Latinx community of Athens.
“With each year that passes, I’ve seen growth in the Hispanic community. There are more resources and opportunities available,” said Homero Gaona, father of three children who schools in CCSD.
Compared to past years, CCSD has made changes to help non-English speaking families. One visible example is CCSD working with U-Lead. The program provides support for students by helping with studying for college entrance exams, applying to colleges and scholarships that will accept students of varying documentation status, and finding financial support for attending institutions of higher education.
“U-Lead works with students from all schools and has the resources to outreach and work with the community,” said Perez-Rhym.
Both parents and faculty agree that the outreach to these families has improved.
“We’d like to have families learn as much as they can about the different resources that are available to them that they didn’t know they had,” said David Forker, coordinator of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Title III for CCSD.