Peer Mentoring Program Helps Students Learn English and Adjust to Palm Beach County

For newly arrived students in the Palm Beach County School District who may not have English as their first language, mentoring and tutoring programs are available to them to assist in developing English fluency.

As English Language Learners (ELL), many of these students are placed in Dual Language programs or the International Spanish academies to keep up with their school curriculum while learning English.

To support this initiative, John I. Leonard High School introduced a new Peer Mentoring Program involving bilingual International Spanish Academy (ISA) students and students from other academies who provide twice weekly mentoring sessions to the English Language Learners.

The program was started this October by four ISA teachers at the school, Rosa Curbelo Serrano, Santiago Parra, Asuncion Sher, and Sergio Navarro. Their goal was to help the English Language Learners improve their conversational skills and school attendance, as well as increase their involvement in school and community activities.

“As teachers of the International Spanish Academy, we serve as models for them, because English is our second language too,” Curbelo said. “The students feel safe and welcome in our program because we appreciate and respect their culture and language. We promote the importance of bilingualism and the acquisition of English as a second language.”

The program mentors work on a volunteer basis with the ELL students twice a week for one hour after school, under the supervision of the ISA teachers. Students in the program also receive a light meal during their time with their mentors. Almost 30 mentors worked with more than 50 students during the first session of the program.

“I am very excited about its purpose since the students will speak English and that is essential to learn the language, said Danaysi Cabrera Dominguez, a senior. “It makes me extremely happy.”

Many of the mentors were previously classified as ELL students. Their understanding of the challenges of learning a new language while keeping up with school work allows them to connect and work effectively with the current ELL students. The program will run through March 2019.

“I am proud to be part of a program that seeks change in our school, to help, teach and motivate,” said freshman Crisleidys Gonzalez.

To view photos of some of the mentors with their students, check out the GALLERY