Education on the Edge Part 4: Academy program helps English prof - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Education on the Edge Part 4: Academy program helps English proficiency

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MATTAWA, WA - The Wahluke School District has the highest percentage of English language learners in the state. Such a unique demographic demands a unique program tailored to the kids' needs. 

The Academy program provides bilingual instruction catered to students' individual needs, helping them progress in learning the English language while keeping up in school. Reporter Rex Carlin has more in Part 4 of Education on the Edge from Mattawa.

"We're kind of that first secure place for them to come in and ask questions," said Sarah Marchel, ELL Specialist at Wahluke Junior High.

Wahluke School District's Academy program sits at the forefront of the district's biggest challenge: getting students brought up to speed on the English language.

But for these kids, it's about more than that.

"The Academy for me is like family," said Michael Garcia, an 8th grader. "I can trust them and they can trust me, and if I ever need help, I know they'll be there for me."

Michael came to the Wahluke School District with almost no ability to speak English. After just seven months in the Academy program, Michael's improvements speak for themselves.

"I want to finish college, and I want to go to USC," he said. "I want to be an author, and a migrant helper to inspire kids to do what they want in life."

The program is intensive - it has to be, when every day that goes by is another day a student might not understand the coursework.

Kimberly, Jose, and Leonardo aren't quite as far along as least not comfortable enough to speak English on TV, but they're progressing as well.

"Now I can talk to more people," said 6th grader Leonardo, "and I don't feel embarrassed, and it also helps us with homework."

"I feel a little better because I can understand a little more and it's easier," said 8th grader Kimberly.

"It helps us with English to pronounce better," said 6th grader Jose, "to write it and read it."

It's preparing these kids for their futures...futures that start in that first secure place: The Academy.

The fifth and final segment tomorrow will teach you about the district's migrant program and how Wahluke staff members go above and beyond to make sure migrant students stay on track with their peers in school.

For the next Education on the Edge segment, click here:

Education on the Edge Part 5: Wahluke's migrant education program

For the previous Education on the Edge segment, click here: 

Education on the Edge Part 3: Wahluke's struggles to hire and keep teachers