Centre, Lincoln team up to help students

May 06, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Students struggling with English in the classrooms of Lincoln County can now find help beyond their school's front doors.

Centre College students enrolled in an education psychology class are leaving campus to venture into field work, helping Hispanic and migrant children catch up to their classmates and brush up on their English skills.

Lincoln County English Language Learners advocate Anthony Beeler invited Centre students to help Lincoln pupils who are in danger of falling through the cracks. Those threatened include migrant workers' children who move through different school districts as their families follow work.

"Generally they have lower test scores ... They don't have a good, consistent education," said Beeler.

The number of such students in Lincoln County schools has jumped in the last several years from nine to 25, said Beeler, increasing the need for extended programs to help transient students.


"Often they are able to communicate verbally, but they have difficulty with written language," said Beeler. But educators alone don't always have the time or resources to provide specialized lessons.

With the efforts of Centre professor Dr. Donna Plummer, struggling students are getting the help they need. Students in Plummer's educational psychology class are required to participate in 10 hours of field work, with ELL tutoring as an option.

"When I initially made contact with Dr. Plummer, chairwoman of the Education Department at Centre College, she was very receptive to the idea," said Beeler. "... The Centre College students are high quality and are going to be a very valuable resource to us."

"I think this is an excellent program that is a great help to the students. By volunteering, I have found that it not only is a benefit to the students, but also has made me more aware and appreciative of other cultures," Centre volunteer Cynthia Vance told Beeler.

Admittedly, the road isn't always a smooth one, said volunteer Emily Grater.

"I was working with one student, and it was really kind of frustrating. He was going back to Mexico, and he knew he was going back, so he didn't really have a drive to learn," said Grater. But just being there for him did help, she added. "I think it was nice for him to have someone to talk to."

Discovering the difficulties of working with students is one of the benefits of field work for the Centre students, said Plummer.

"Just the language barrier (is a difficulty). How do you explain to somebody who doesn't understand English?" asked Plummer. "It helps them see some of the reality of being a classroom teacher."

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