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The City Journals

Family Learning Center ceremony celebrates a different kind of graduate

Jul 08, 2019 02:32PM ● By Julie Slama

Jose Borjon, consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City, congratulates one of about 15 parents who received their Plazas Comunitarias with a diploma from the Mexican education system.

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Jadyra Lara moved from Honduras to Utah when she was 14, but she never learned to speak English — until this past year.

“I’ve gone to class every single day,” Lara said about attending Midvale Elementary’s Family Learning Center English instruction. “I speak so-so; the verbs are hard. I want to learn more English so I can help my children, help in their classes and be able to go shopping.”

Lara was one of about 75 students who were honored May 30 at the Family Learning Center Recognition Program. 

The Family Learning Centers, which began in Canyons School District in 2011, are housed in the district’s four Title I elementary schools and provide educational classes and training as well as resources to parents to support learning in the home. Many parents who attend classes immigrated from Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Nepal, Guatemala, China, Ghana, Honduras and other countries.

Jose Borjon, consulate of Mexico in Salt Lake City, congratulated about 15 parents who received their Plazas Comunitarias with a diploma from the Mexican education system.

“This is very valuable for parents to be actively studying and engaged in learning,” he said. “It’s good you come to work, to prosper, to help your family grow and learn.”

Plazas Comunitarias serves as a transitional program for Hispanic-speaking adults to learn English and take adult basic education classes, establishing an academic foundation for them to finish their elementary and secondary education in Spanish.

Borjon also presented a check for $1,200 to Canyons School District to continue supporting the program.

Director of Student Advocacy and Access Karen Sterling said these parents who are learning English will have strengths to support their students in both their native language as well as in English.

“The first thing kids learn in school is English, and parents are needing to learn English to support their students,” Sterling said. 

Sterling congratulated parents for demonstrating a great mindset in wanting to learn more and being role models as students for their children. 

As a result of parents learning and becoming more active in their children’s school, students have better attendance, make greater progress learning English and reading, and score higher on standardized tests, she said.

Children of the graduates ran to hug their parents and stand by them as the auditorium erupted in applause. Even 2-year-old Airam Noemi Mendoza, dressed in a traditional costume, held signs congratulating her mother, Alejandra Mendoza, on her accomplishments.

Sprinkled throughout the ceremony were moments of culture as Copperview Family Learning Center presented a dance, Un Poco Loco, complete with colorful costumes. Maria Doriman Hernandez Aguilar sang “Igual que el Universo.”

The evening also included the Heart of Canyons Community Schools award presentation to Baraa Arkawazi.

Arkawazi, who is from Turkey, was asked by East Midvale administrators to help translate for a shy student who had just moved to Utah and was struggling to fit in. Every day for five years, Arkawazi came to help that student and others while improving her English as well. 

Arkawazi earned her GED and decided to work for Canyons School District. However, before she could begin, she had to take a test. It took nearly one year and 22 attempts to pass, but when she did, she was celebrated by East Midvale Elementary students and became a school aide.

“We celebrate Baraa for her determination, perseverance and setting the pathway, an example, for our community,” said Shelley McCall, East Midvale community school facilitator. 

Several parents are grateful for their Family Learning Center education.

“We all are able to connect to schools, to become familiar faces with teachers and become contributors to our school community,” Family Learning Center student Rosairo Figueroa said.

Board of education member Mont Millerberg appreciates the impact Family Learning Centers have on students and the community.

“What a blessing it is that we have a public education system that education is not just for the children, but for the families,” he said. “This is really an outreach to our community so families learn to trust our schools and their children can enter school where they can learn and become successful.”