Worldwide Welcome: Students serve as mentors for English Language Learners (ELL), promote CHS Culture of Care


Nathan Huang

Junior Mckensie Matthews (LEFT) helps junior Natalie Hanna with Spanish. Matthews said she loves using the language to help others.

Leah Tan

Since the crisis in Venezuela began, CHS has had a recent intake of English Language Learners (ELLs). In fact, the United States has seen an increase in ELLs in general. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017, 9.5% of U.S. students are ELLs, in comparison to 8.1% back in 2000. In response, the CHS administration implemented “Global Connections,” a program that serves to help these students adapt to CHS by pairing them with other students who maintain a high level of proficiency in their native language. As of now, 40 students serve as these mentors; one of them is junior Mckensie Matthews.

“I’ve been working with the Spanish language for about three years now and have fallen deeply in love with it,” Matthews said. “When (Cary) Schwartz (counselor and creator of Global Connections) reached out to me about this program, I remember being so enthusiastic.”

According to Schwartz, “The program was created after realizing as a community that we really needed to 

assist our ELLs on a more personal level. My hope as a counselor is that every first day is a good first day. Sometimes just reading signs in a different language can be extremely overwhelming, so by providing ELLs access to someone who can speak their native language, we can improve their experience.”

In order to achieve this, one of the main responsibilities the mentors of Global Connections have is to build personal connections with ELLs.

“It’s really scary for these students to come into an environment where they aren’t comfortable with the primary language,” Matthews said. “I feel like having us students as a mentor and friend to guide them throughout the year allows them to feel more comfortable and at home.”

However, the mentors’ responsibilities can incorporate more than just the students themselves.

Mentor and senior Gavin Daniels said, “You can be assigned a student or responsibility any time throughout the year, so even if a family shows up sometime during the school year, we will be given the job of helping guide all of them.”

Wendy Zhu
Mentor and senior Gavin Daniels checks his homework in his IB Spanish class. Daniels said he will continue to study the language in the future and has been considering majoring in Spanish in college.

Furthermore, Schwartz said she has a goal to have Global Connections eventually expand into the community, although it’s primarily focused within the school campus currently.

“The one wish I have is that this program starts to reach more towards the Carmel community, specifically with helping families get connected with one another,” Schwartz said. “Because immigrants enrich our culture so much, the more we can normalize the way we treat those who don’t speak our language, the more we can impact the culture within our building and community for good.”

This program is a significant step for helping ELLs within this school; according to the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), “The first intensive federal monitoring of No Child Left Behind Act waivers shows states struggling to help English learners adjust to new standards.” Often, this is because of language and cultural barriers, which alone can impact the students academic and social life. According to the IDRA, only 8% of ELL students were considered college-ready in math and English compared to 56% for all students and they averaged lower scores on standardized testing. Thus, with mentors to break these barriers that inhibit the ELLs’ academic and social life, positive impacts are inevitable.

Although both Matthews and Daniels have yet to be assigned a student, both said they already foresee Global Connections as promising and applicable to their future.

“I want to go into interpreting or teaching another language, specifically English in another country, so being able to assist others by breaking the language barrier is incredible,” Matthews said. “In general, being able to make someone feel at home as a new student, let alone another country, let alone another primary language is just indescribable.”

Similarly, Daniels said, “I want to get a certificate or major in Spanish, and since the United States is gradually becoming more Hispanic, I think it’s really beneficial to be able to converse with this language. The fact that I’ll have an opportunity (to do this) within the school really gives me hope for my passion and my future.”

Because this is the first year the program is active, Schwartz said she would welcome any changes that will help foster its growth and development.

“If you are proficient in a language, reach out to Mrs. Schwartz and get involved,” Matthews said. “It’d be great to really expand the program so that helping others can become more of a norm.”

Schwartz said, “As (Superintendent Michael) Beresford says, we’re better together, and so by helping these kids assimilate into our culture, we only make ourselves better.”