English Language Learners Soar to Success as Power Scholars

News | Mary Anne Swanstrom | June 27, 2018

You might expect Madison Elementary’s halls to be silent during summer as kids are at camp, on vacation or chilling at home.
But this summer, the school’s classrooms are filled with the happy chatter of children speaking 15 languages including Spanish and Russian, Cantonese, Tamil and Haitian Creole.
It’s the English Learners annual summer camp that targets students whose native tongue is not English. The camp supports academic and language needs, helping students to avoid summer learning loss as they strengthen their language and cultural awareness skills. This year’s camp has 85 kids and is a growing partnership between Madison City Schools, the Community Foundation’s SAIL (Summer Adventures in Learning), and the Heart of the Valley YMCA.
“This new partnership with the YMCA takes our camp to a higher level, offering students opportunities we were not able to provide before,” said Dr. Natalia Dooley, Federal Programs Coordinator for Madison City Schools. “While addressing the summer learning loss, kids with the generous support of the YMCA are able to swim, attend Camp Cha-La-Kee and learn ways to build a stronger community.”
At MES this year, the halls are decorated with kids’ favorite superheroes. They are all there to learn more English and receive enrichment in reading and math in the Power Scholars Academy program supported by Heart of the Valley YMCA, BELL University, Madison City Schools and SAIL. BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) is a non-profit organization that offers resources and expertise to deliver Power Scholars Academy to children in grades K-8.
“The goal of this Power Scholars Academy is to help with language acquisition,” said Lamont Singleton, Heart of the Valley YMCA Director of Youth Development and Social Responsibility. “We have a wide range of families we are serving, from highly educated professionals to children from families of little financial means, but they all receive value from their children learning English in a positive, non-judgmental classroom.”

The EL students are smart kids, and this isn’t summer school. But children from non-English speaking homes are at a special disadvantage come fall if there is little exposure to English during summer vacation. Without summer learning activities, studies show that children tend to lose reading and math skills, gain weight and face increased risks of negative social behavior. Power Scholars Academy is the Y’s evidence-based answer to summer learning loss.

The English Learners Power Scholars Academy is one of five PSA sites in Madison and Marshall counties.

Children are learning English around their peers, and “they are not intimidated if they don’t use exactly the right English word, and that’s huge,” Singleton added.

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