A pair of Huntington High School alums returned to their alma mater during the college winter intercession to participate in a forum with students from English as a new language and home language arts classes.
Huntington grads Lenni Joya Amaya and Santos Garcia Avelar joined three current students for a panel discussion in the School Heritage Museum. The group shared their experiences in the bilingual programs, the challenges they have faced and their respective pathways to success.
“It was an awesome day and the kids did a phenomenal job of presenting their stories,” said Huntington Principal Brenden Cusack, who coordinated the event.
The two alums reached out to the high school seeking an opportunity to meet with current ENL students in some sort of forum. “It has been one of my goals to find new ways to engage and connect with our ENL/HLA students,” Mr. Cusack said. “Lenni’s idea was the perfect way to provide our current students with a model for success.”
Mr. Joya Amaya, a Marist College sophomore, enlisted the participation of Mr. Garcia Avelar, who is in his freshman year at CUNY-John Jay College. “I then got in touch with senior Manyara Cuadra and sophomore Edgar Rivas Lizama, who serve on my Principal’s Advisory Council, which is a new group this year and they joined the panel as well,” Mr. Cusack said.
Mr. Rivas Lizama expressed the belief that his sister, Rocio, a Huntington junior would make a great addition to the panel as well. So the two alums and the three current high school students joined together to form a panel with a lot to offer the audience. “The kids all worked together on their presentations and put together a PowerPoint presentation,” Mr. Cusack said.
Mr. Cusack introduced the panel prior to the commencement of each session. Panel members made six presentations of 40 minutes each throughout the day, telling their respective stories in Spanish. Each session ended with a lively question and answer period.
“The kids did an outstanding job and they kept their audiences completely engaged throughout the day with their inspiration, humor and guidance,” Mr. Cusack said. “I am so proud of them.”
The ENL program “seeks to provide intensive English skills to non-English speaking students,” states the Huntington High School curriculum guide. “The students in this program are held to the same high standards as their English speaking counterparts, thus the teachers incorporate all of the language arts modalities of listening, speaking, reading and writing. These classes not only teach English language arts, but also English through the content area.
Home language arts classes help English language learners acquire or improve their reading and writing skills in their native language. “The skills learned in Spanish will be transferred to English, making it possible for these students to acquire English at a faster pace,” according to the curriculum guide.