Mentoring Program Helping CHS Students Learn to Speak English
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A multilingual mentoring program at Charlottesville High School (CHS) is getting national attention.
About a dozen bilingual students have earned the distinction of being CHS Mentoring Ambassadors, welcoming and supporting students who are learning to speak English. These mentors know what it’s like to come to the United States with little English and having to work hard to catch up with their classmates.
Eighteen-year-old Donaldo Franco-Fuentes came to the U. S. last October and is still struggling to learn English. Thanks to his multilingual mentor, Cinthya Padilla, it's getting a little easier for him.
Cinthya, 15, translates for Donaldo, and was once in his shoes. She came to the United States five years ago.
"I kind of felt lonely sometimes because I didn't speak the language, and I was like, ‘oh they might be talking about me, and I don't know if they're talking about me,’" she said.
Cinthya and other mentors give up time out of their school day to help English learners navigate the school and their studies.
"I wasn't sure because it might have taken part of my classes, and I need to focus on my classes a lot. But then I was like I didn't have anybody when I came here, so I think that would be pretty selfish of me and I should help them too," Cinthya said.
English-as-a-second-language teachers Kara Menfi and Tina Vasquez lead the mentoring program, which recently earned the Social Emotional Innovation Fund. This national grant will help them to train mentors and put on activities that bring students closer together.
"Having peers actually caring about them, reaching out, welcoming them… it just makes such a huge difference. You see them come out of their shells more, and you see them light up," Vasquez said.
"Knowing that somebody is trusting you, and you can help them out, it feels very nice," said Cinthya
Donaldo says he is excited for this chance to work towards a successful future; a future he says wouldn't be possible in his country.