San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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July 16th, 2009
Newcomer Academy helps SMCISD students break language barrier


San Marcos CISD’s (SMCISD) Newcomer Academy has worked during the summer to build English language skills in students who not only have to succeed in school, but pass the annual TAKS test as well.

The three-week program lets students who are learning English earn high school credits. The students were not required to attend, but chose the program to help them graduate. The majority of the students are Hispanic and come from various Spanish-speaking countries.

The Newcomer Academy is a fairly new program, and many who attended were grateful for the extra assistance.

“The hardest part of high school is that I have to pass the English TAKS,” said Newcomer student Carlos Benitez.

The students were presented with a question each day, such as “What is the most difficult thing you have encountered in high school?” They recorded their responses in journals, and discussed the answers among themselves. The answers ranged form having trouble with the TAKS test to being the first in their family to graduate from high school.

The program itself uses technology, such as iPods that are checked out that have the day’s lectures on them, to further the students’ understanding of English. This enabled the students to study the lessons at home, and had the added benefit of involving their families in their instruction. Students also have the option of coming to a short summer program for individual instruction.

One student plans on taking what she has learned to help similar students in the future.

“I want to go to college and become an ESL teacher, so that I can help out my family,” said Newcomer student Rosa Tapia. “The reason I have this goal is because I see how the ESL teachers helped me out with translations everyday. I would like the opportunity to help students just as I was helped.”

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