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Episode 95: Language Learning Resources for Students and Families

Do you have a student or family member looking for language learning resources in the community? On this episode of the Supercast, we take you inside the Jordan School District Family Engagement Center where students and families are finding language support services that are changing lives.  The center is also connecting families with social and emotional support they need. The services are available all summer long and they are free.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Do you have a student or family member looking for language learning resources in the community? On this episode of the Supercast, we take you inside the Jordan School District Family Engagement Center, where students and families are finding language support services that are changing lives. The center is also connecting families with the social and emotional support they need. The services are available all summer long and they are free. Let's head inside Copper Mountain Middle School to learn more.

We're here at Copper Mountain Middle School at the Family Engagement Center with some of the staff who made that possible. I'm going to ask them to introduce themselves and then we're going to learn about all the ways that we engage with families in Jordan School District.

Staff:
I'm Michelle Love-Day, the consultant over Educational Language Services. I'm Toni Brown, I'm the Parent and Outreach Specialist on the Culture Diversity Outreach Team. I'm Silviane Perkins. I work directly with parents, teaching them English as a second language (ESL), and some of the resources that are available for them.

Anthony Godfrey:
Michelle, start by telling us a little bit about the Family Engagement Center and its purpose, how it came to be.

Michelle:
So we started this because with our Parent Outreach focus and our Culture and Diversity Team, we really wanted to reach our parents to support them on how to be engaged with the schools. We are finding that many of our parents live in Title I schools, but they live outside of Title I schools as well. In talking with schools such as Copper Mountain in Herriman, we're noticing a lot of our parents are moving out this way, but there's no support for them to learn English. There are no resources for them to be able to navigate our system. And so we created this Engagement Center so they can learn English through our department and have support.

Anthony Godfrey:
So how many Family Engagement Centers are there in Jordan District right now?

Michelle:
Under our department, this is the first one. We're very happy that Copper Mountain opened their doors and said we could have one of their portables. We're hoping to also work with West Jordan Middle School so that they have one. We are kind of a sister team to the Family Resource Centers that the Title I schools have. But this is the first one that our department has.

Anthony Godfrey:
Describe for me a little bit, the difference between those two.

Toni:
Well, at the Family Learning Centers in the Title I schools, they operate similarly, but their reach is a little bit smaller because it's a smaller school that is primarily based on things that parents of elementary school age students would need. And here at the Family Engagement Center, we are reaching out to all parents and trying to provide things that suit the needs of older children, as well as the parents themselves.

Anthony Godfrey:
And what kind of classes would you offer to parents?

Toni:
Right now we have an English class for people interested in learning English. We have also been requested to have a Spanish class for English speaking parents that want to communicate with their ever diversifying community.

Anthony Godfrey:
Right, and really connect is what we're trying to do. We're trying to connect the school to our families and to our community and then connect them with each other so there's a great web of support. Silviane, you tell me a little bit about your role.

Silviane:
Usually when parents come here, it's almost impossible to separate their needs from how they feel. This group of parents, they need English for a purpose which is to be operational, to function. They have bills to pay, they have to get jobs. If you don't speak English, that has a huge impact on your family and also on your children because if your mother, your father cannot help you with your homework, who will? It's not that if you are an adult that you cannot learn.  You will learn English as your second language, but you have to have a certain mature approach because they have other things in their lives. So that's my role, to make them believe that they can learn how to speak English, and how to change and protect their children and their families.

Michelle:
With the help of the State as well, who were able to give us finances to have operations so that we can translate. That is what started the trajectory of the Family Engagement Center and seeing to that need, because we're getting the support and funding. We're also working on translating many documents that we send out from our department to the parents districtwide, so that we can help them navigate the home language surveys, the ACT opt out or opt in for testing scores and just all kinds of family demographic questionnaires that they receive.  The good thing is that the word has gotten out, and like Silviane said, there are 60 parents that are registered. It was wonderful because the word got out and we had a parent show up at our office two weeks ago because they needed help to understand what was being placed in Skyward for their son in order to graduate. What did he need? How do they pick up a packet? So items just as simple as that, where parents are afraid to call the school, they now know that the Family Engagement Center has somebody that speaks Spanish, or that we can find someone that speaks their language, like Swahili, or Kinyarwanda, and we'll help them navigate what they need to do.

Anthony Godfrey:
It is great to have those resources. So really, a primary purpose of the Family Engagement Center is to overcome language barriers. But what are some of the other barriers that need to be overcome as well?

Michelle:
I would say some of the barriers are just the access to resources. As Toni said earlier, combining all the resources that are out in our community for our parents and bringing it into a place where we can give them the opportunity to register their child to take ALPS testing, let them know there are science activities that are available after school, and as we come up on summer, what summer programs we have available so that they understand the opportunities. This year, free and reduced lunch has been done differently, but next year there'll be a change, and we want to make sure that parents are getting the reminder and understanding the email that was sent out. Understanding that they're going to have to re-register for free and reduced lunch, or they're going to have to opt out of certain things. There are barriers I think in just what they don't know because of communication from school to home.

Silviane:
And something that I always like to emphasize is this is not just for our Spanish speaking parents or parents who do not speak English as their primary language. This is for any parent who wants to improve. For example, we have a coalition in Salt Lake. It's an organization for women who support their families because they're alone. They have this organization that can help women prepare themselves to face interviews, to become more professional, to find a better salary. We also have a University of Utah Initiative for how to get a higher return on your taxes.

If you have teenagers, they sometimes, for different reasons become depressed, especially during COVID. We have many mental health, physical health, and professional help resources. There are many people, like Michelle said, who don't have the information that they need. The Family Engagement Center, that's the middle name, is to engage those families and give them power, the power of information. With that in mind, if families can share these resources with their neighbors and communities we can empowerment the whole community. It's a win-win situation.

Toni:
I'd also like to add that right now, the Family Engagement Center is in its infancy. We're still in a very malleable state. We are listening, we want to know what the community wants and what they need. So we're reaching out to people to hear, what can we do? We're here, we want to help you, and we will help you find an answer.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's really sounds like the main purpose is to connect people with resources. Sometimes those resources are within the school district. Sometimes it's external. I've been surprised over the years when I've learned some of the things that are available to help parents that may be in a difficult circumstance, even temporarily, that they didn't expect to find themselves in. So what you said earlier is important. Really, the Family Engagement Center is for all families, regardless of their circumstance. There's some things we have to offer.

Stay with us. When we come back, more about the free support services for families and students available all summer long.

Break:
Do you simply love learning online? We can't wait to have you join the amazing teachers in our brand new Jordan Virtual Learning Academy. In Jordan Virtual Learning Academy schools, we offer innovative, fun and flexible online learning with daily, real-time instruction from teachers. Enrollment is currently open for all K-12 students in Utah. Start on the path to personalized virtual learning success now at http://connect.jordandistrict.org.

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the resources that might surprise people? Are there some resources that might not occur to people that are available through the Engagement Center?

Silviane:
One of the resources that people always get very surprised about is that there are dental clinics and health clinics that provide services. Sometimes they don't even have the family income scale. There are also psychological and mental health assistance resources. When some families are dealing with addiction and they need intervention, there is also a service provider called Cornerstone House and they offer assistance as well.

Anthony Godfrey:
People have been surprised when I've talked with them, friends and colleagues, that the Jordan Education Foundation has expanded Principal Pantries to every one of our schools. The Principal Pantries are where donors provide toiletries, food, even clothing, and other materials for students who need that. They think that need is concentrated in a particular area of the district, but it's throughout the district. We have students experiencing homelessness throughout the district, students who experience food insecurity. There's a lot of support. I'm really glad that this center is out in the Herriman area so that we can reach every corner of the district.

Toni:
It's not that the need isn't there. It just looks different in different communities. A lot of times, these things kind of go under the radar because people don't want you to find out, but having a Family Engagement Center is a convenient and comfortable space for people to reach out without having it become a big ordeal. It's at their kid's school that they go to every single day.

Michelle:
The one thing when we decided to do the Family Engagement Center and specifically selected Herriman, with the growth of homes and condos and apartments along Mountain View Corridor, many parents wanted to be able to go to Majestic Elementary and learn English, but the transportation is very inconvenient. We've learned that just because they live out here doesn't mean that they don't want the resources. So by having it closer to a home, yes, we're housed at Copper Mountain Middle school right now, but it's available to anyone that can get here.

Anthony Godfrey:
Okay. We talked about the need. There are a lot of languages spoken by families in Jordan School District. You mentioned Swahili and another one. I'm not even sure where that language is spoken. Tell me some of the other languages that are spoken in Jordan District.

Toni:
There's a lot of Kurdish.  It's the first time I'd ever been asked to find a Kurdish translator before, or to find a Kurdish interpreter. We've also had Kinyarwandan.

Anthony Godfrey:
That was the one you mentioned, where is that spoken?

Michelle:
Kinyarwandan, and that is spoken in a part of West Africa.

Toni:
There are 53 languages within the Jordan School District from Samoan to Arabic. Spanish, of course, is our largest second language to English. But there's a variety of languages. 53 languages from Vietnamese to Cantonese to Hindi. And so we want to be able to provide resources to those families.

Silviane:
I have students from Croatia, Italy, Brazil, and Venezuela.

Anthony Godfrey:
That may be another misconception is that it's really mostly Spanish that we're helping with, but we can find resources to help with any language.

Michelle:
Yes, and the great thing of the State of Utah is just the services that are offered through Serve Refugees and the Utah Refugee Connection. We are partnering with Women of the World. And while those services are down in Salt Lake City, because of our connection we're able to bring the resources out here to families so they don't have to make their way downtown and take most of their day traveling to get the information.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's obvious that all of the support for families results in students being more successful in school. But can you articulate that for me a little bit, what does that mean when families feel that support and connection for students?

Toni:
Definitely. I believe that when you're teaching a child, you have to look at the whole child and whole child includes whole family. They come to us in the mornings and they're there with us all day, but when they go home they're with their family and having safety and security and comfort and peace in your home translates exponentially into the classroom. A child who is comfortable and feels safe and feels supported at home, then comes into school and gets that same environment, it's just a circle of love and support, just enveloping a kid, that helps them develop positively.

Anthony Godfrey:
If listeners think, "Hey, this is something that I could benefit from or a family I know could benefit from this", how do they get in contact with the Family Engagement Center?

Toni:
They can feel free to send me an email at toni.brown@jordandistrict.org. It's Toni Brown, it's an easy name to remember. Just shoot me an email, I will put them in contact with the right people or help them find the right resource.

Michelle:
So if they go to http://els.jordandistrict.org and just click on Outreach, they'll be able to click on the information. Toni's name will come up, and the information and the times of when we meet. Typically Tuesdays and Thursdays have been our class times for this year, and they can put themselves on a list to join in.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you all for taking the time to be on the Supercast, but more than anything, to be so thoughtful and intentional about how to help support our families and in turn, help support our students and make sure that they have every success possible.

Silviane:
Thank you Dr. Godfrey, and I just want to say something in Spanish and Portuguese.  So thank you, Dr. Godfrey for helping us to spread the word about the Family Engagement Center. Thank you.

Michelle:
Thank you so much for having us.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thanks for joining us on another episode of the Supercast. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there.

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