Program works to acclimate multilingual, migrant students to school in Santa Maria

District wide program helps bridge...

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Hundreds of students part of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District got some help this summer. It's all part of the Multilingual and Migrant Education Program.

Some students work with teachers and staff to stay on track for graduation, while students new to the country work on getting used to school in the United States. In just four months Adriana Vanegas’ life changed completely.

"It was hard because I thought it would be different and I wouldn’t adapt to life here,” she said. Her family migrated from El Salvador to Santa Maria. It’s quite a change for the 13-year-old freshmen who is now a student at Santa Maria High School.

"At first you always miss home, sometimes you cry about it,” Vanegas added. The language barrier is just one of the many obstacles she’s working to overcome. She's learning to speak English.

Vanegas said she’ll have opportunities here in the U.S she otherwise wouldn’t have back home.

"My parents, I’m so grateful for them, they are supportive and tell me we came here for a better life,” said Vanegas.

She along with 600 other students district wide were part of the program over the summer.

"It helped me a lot because I was able to better understand the work and get better at speaking English,” Vanegas said about the program.

It’s designed to help students catch up on work if they have failed courses and gives students new to the country a chance to adapt to the culture.

"Our students have a lot of challenges, language is the biggest one, everything is new to them,” said Elizabeth Cortez, an English teacher who works with students from the program.

"Some students go to school and go to work,” added Maritza Olguin. She was one of the teachers helping during the program.

Teachers said many students are juggling life at home, work and school. Some are even here in the country alone without their parents.

"It’s exciting to see them, and inspiring is the word I want to say,” said Olguin.

As Vanegas continues to adapt to her new surroundings, she said she still has some time to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.

"There are a lot of things I like, but I haven’t thought much about it yet,” she said. 

Vanegas said thanks to the summer program, she was not only able to work on her English but work on socialization skills by meeting some of her classmates.

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