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Beyond the Bell Celebrates LAUSD’s English Learners!

“Bilingualism is an asset not an impediment for your future goals!  The high school diploma is another stage in your educational journey.”  These were the messages conveyed to the students at their Language in Action Program (LAP) Culmination.

  On Saturday, December 9, 2017, Beyond the Bell Branch (BTB) celebrated 250 high school English Learners for their successful completion of the Language in Action Program.  LAP is a program BTB provides English Learners at 65 high schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) from San Pedro High School in the South Bay to Sylmar High School in the San Fernando Valley.  LAP provides English Learners with a culturally and linguistically supportive environment for authentic language acquisition. At the completion of the program the students are invited to participate in a rewarding culmination experience. 



The culmination began with Mr. Alvaro Cortés, Beyond the Bell’s Senior Executive Director, reminding the students of the positive impact they make in our communities and of the importance of graduating from high school and continuing with their education.  The Keynote Speaker, Mr. Marvin Martinez, president of East Los Angeles College shared his own immigrant story of coming to America from El Salvador at a young age and the challenges he endured.  He emphasized the importance of students learning English and continuing with their education.  “I am in the position today because of my education.  No matter what obstacles life puts in your path do not ever lose sight of your goal.” 


Students were given time to meet with mentors. Special mentors included a USC Professor and Program Administrator, a Coordinator from L. A.’s Mayor’s Office, a Pepperdine Graduate Student, a L. A. Times Editor, an actress from The Bold and the Beautiful, and a LAUSD Director.  During the sessions the mentors shared something about their profession and their, or their ancestor’s, immigrant story.  The students asked questions and shared their own immigrant stories.  This was a most rewarding experience for both the students and mentors as was evident by some of the comments made.  “I feel that I benefit more from the mentor sessions than the students because I walk away feeling inspired and humbled by some of their stories.  This country is amazing and strong because of the contributions immigrants have and continue to make.”  (Greg Molina, USC Program Administrator)  The students were just as impacted. Andrea Enriquez from Grant HS commented, “What I enjoyed most about the culmination is talking to the mentors who speak to us about their careers and the importance of going to school.”

Following the mentor sessions, students enjoyed performances by Las Colibri (The Hummingbirds) and Las Jovencitas (The Young Ladies).  The leader of these groups, Susie Garcia, reminded the students of the importance of continuing with their education and following their dreams which is exactly what she and members of both groups are doing.  “We have all earned our Master’s degree because education is important to us!  The best advice we can offer you is to continue practicing your English, graduate from high school, and continue with your education so that one day you can give back to your community.” 

The students were taken on a guided tour of East Los Angeles College.  For the majority of these students this was the first time they visited a college.  They were able to ask questions and learned about the types of courses community colleges offer.

Finally, students took center stage with presentations.   Banning High School students created a poster on the importance of unity and diversity, and standing up against racism.  The students at South Gate High School created a poster supporting the Dream Act and included John Lennon’s lyrics, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”  There were posters by students at Fremont High School and Maywood High School with anti-drugs and anti-smoking messages, “Doing drugs and smoking is like playing with death!”  All presentations were quite impactful. 


The day ended with students sharing with their peers.  William from Maywood emphasized the importance of participating in the Language in Action Program.  “I participated in the program for over 2 years and reclassified (became fluent in the English language) this year.  I was only able to reclassify because of this program!”  Abdel Mejia from Garfield High School thanked everyone for the day’s event.  “The culmination makes me see that LAP isn’t just a classroom, it’s a community.  Thank you for making us part of this community.” 

At the end of the culmination the students were asked, “Who is going to graduate from high school and continue with their education?”  Every single hand went up in the air!  This was a perfect ending to an amazing event!  The next LAP Culmination will take place on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

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