The Family Learning Program completed its spring semester at the end of May and wrapped up the school year with celebratory graduations and bitter-sweet goodbyes. I had the opportunity to attend three FLP graduations and enjoyed seeing the students celebrate their accomplishments and show their appreciation for their teachers. Every site does graduation in a slightly different way, but they all have smiling students and delicious international food in common.
Here are some highlights from the graduations I attended:
At Crestwood Elementary School, I enjoyed seeing Mirna and Nancy, the children’s teachers, and the children’s room volunteer Vicki Smith present the parents with portfolios the children created over the course of the semester. Mirna took great pride in sharing how the children improved their motor skills and emergent literacy skills with the projects. All of the activities can be easily replicated by parents and children together during the summer.
It was a pleasure to see Sherwood student Laudelina Esperinossa, age 77, interact with all of her classmates and teachers at the graduation. Laudelina, who is originally from Cuba, qualifies for the program because she is the caregiver for a child’s neighbor. Laudelina seems to be everyone’s favorite classmate. She has a wry sense of humor and constantly jokes about her age to those around her. Laudelina did not allow me to leave the graduation empty handed; she made sure I went home with left-overs of the rice and bean dish she had prepared. I also went home (at her insistence) with the trivet her pot was resting on. I tried to decline, but she said it was from the dollar store and she had plenty at home and could easily get another. There was a brief moment where I thought I might end up with the pot, but fortunately, there was another container available!
Some of you may have read about Maria Marian in the student profile of the newsletter. Over the last two years Maria attended both Woodlawn and Sherwood and in that time, went from scoring at a level 1 on the Best Plus test to a level 6. I am happy to report that it was a unanimous decision by her teachers that it was time for her to graduate our program. Over food and cake at Woodlawn’s graduation, I enjoyed a very meaningful conversation with Maria. She described the culture shock she experienced when coming to the United States from Romania, much of which stemmed from the differences in food. She recalled an argument with her husband when he returned from the grocery store with wheat bread that tasted like cake to her. Small differences, such as this, made for a challenging first year in this country where she felt isolated and felt physically and emotionally different than she had in her own country. She credited the English classes with building her self esteem and helping her make friends.
These anecdotes are just some of the special moments from our classes; I wish I would have had the opportunity to visit all of the graduations to witness more moments like these. Thank you to all of the teachers and volunteers for a great year!
~Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist