USA Helps Teach English as a Second Language
Matilda Raffa Cuomo and
challenge schools and teachers face in educating classes full
of students with a wide range of previous schooling and cultural
backgrounds is not to be taken lightly. English Language Learners
(ELLs), who represent over 140 different languages, may have grown
up in the United States but speak a language other than English
at home; they may arrive in the U.S. with limited formal schooling
or they may have had strong academic backgrounds before coming
to this country. The support of a caring adult mentor through
Mentoring USA’s ESL Mentoring program will no doubt yield academic
success, as well as a smoother transition both socially and emotionally
In September, Mentoring USA (MUSA) will begin ESL Mentoring to
address the challenge of educating linguistically and culturally
diverse students, the ELLs who comprise 15 percent of New York
City public school students. One of the schools where MUSA will
begin its pilot year of ESL Mentoring is PS 188 on the Lower East
Side. PS 188 is District 1’s site for all children who have recently
emigrated from Spanish-speaking countries. Led by a dynamic principal,
Barbara Slatin, the school is heading in the direction of being
a real community center, hoping to be open 7 days a week, to host
college classes for parents, and to find funding for a full bilingual
The partnership between MUSA and PS 188 will be an exciting venture,
as the school is already planning a program on Saturday mornings
to address the math needs of new immigrants. When the math help
ends, MUSA comes in with an hour of ESL Mentoring, to give the
students one-to-one attention in English language learning.
A few blocks from PS 188, near the 2nd Avenue F train stop, is
PS 20. Leonard Golubchick, Principal of PS 20, is enthusiastic
about his partnership with MUSA. ESL Mentoring will take place
on Wednesday afternoons after school.
At the other end of the city, on the campus of Manhattan College
in Riverdale, is the Jonas Bronck Academy. Sonia Guevara, the
ESL teacher at Jonas Bronck Academy, supports the small setting
of the ESL program to facilitate the individual help the students
need. The support of the principal allows the teachers and students
to have access to all the necessary ESL materials.
As a child of immigrant parents, like my husband, Mario, and many
others, I can relate to the need for mentoring English Language
Learners in a special way. Many of us were not allowed to attend
kindergarten. In my case, I was turned away from PS 137 in Brooklyn,
when my mother, who spoke only Italian, was humiliated because
she could not read the registration forms written in English.
My mother was told to return the following year for first grade,
which thankfully was required by law. Although children of immigrant
parents are no longer turned away from kindergarten, many still
suffer the consequences of having a non-English speaking parent.
Well-trained mentors can help address many of the challenges faced
by children of parents new to this country.
Mentoring USA’s ESL Mentoring will run its pilot year at PS 188,
PS 20, the Jonas Bronck Academy, and will also have a presence
in Brooklyn, at the Ditmas International Middle School and at
the Sunset Park Recreation Center. To become a mentor and receive
further information, please contact Holly Darling at (212) 253-1194
Cuomo is the Founder and Chairperson of Mentoring USA. Holly Darling
is the Director of ESL Mentoring.
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
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