As students, Dixon Morigene and Xochitl Arreola experienced the challenge of leaving their home countries and starting school in the United States. But the two are now drawing from that experience to help students like them find their way and acquire the English language.
“When I first came to the United States I felt like I had to leave my culture behind, which I did not really want to do. I relied on my friends and my teachers to help me,” says Morigene, who immigrated from Haiti.
While the process was a bit easier for Arreola, who took took English classes in Mexico prior to moving to the U.S., she says the transition was still tough. “Adapting to the new culture, meeting new people, attending a new school, was a challenge for me. I remember the first day of class I cried because I did not know anyone in the school at this time,” she said. “A CLF (Community Language Facilitator) and the guidance counselor helped me a lot.”
Today the two are working as CLFs helping students and teachers in the classroom at Glades Central High School – their former school.
“Morigene and Arreola understand the complexity of student life in the Glades. It is special to be a part of their growth as professionals,” says Mr. Kenneth Lutz, ESOL Coordinator at Glades Central High.
Community Language Facilitators assist English Language Learners (ELLs) in individualized and small group instruction, help teachers and administrators in fulfilling ESOL program goals and serve as translators and interpreters for parents, students and community members.
“Being able to walk in their [ELLs] shoes allow me to better support them,” Morigene says.
“I try to encourage them, tell them that everything is going to be OK,” “We were in their shoes not too long ago,” says Arreola. “They should take advantage of the opportunity of education in the US.”
The experience not only helps the students, but the two CLFs are learning that they are gaining as much as they are giving.
Morigene wanted to learn business, but he realizes now that he is falling in love with teaching and really likes mentoring students.“I think it is not too late to change my goal,” he says.
Arreola is also leaning towards teaching after first being interested in the medical field. ‘Working with the School District gives us the opportunity to achieve our goals,” she says.