While many teens spend the summer sleeping in, playing video games or hanging out with friends, Koko Mohamed, 16, shows up at Mead High School at 8 a.m. Monday through Thursday.
Mohamed is one of 10 English Language Learner students enrolled in the Mead School District’s summer school program.
He moved to the United States from Egypt a little over a year ago and attended summer school last year, too.
“It really helped me get used to high school classes,” he said.
That additional help can be critical to students trying to acclimate to a new culture as well as keep up with academic requirements. The program is a miniature melting pot, with students from the Marshall Islands mingling with students from Russia and Ukraine.
Mead summer school is tuition-based, but this year the district is covering the fees for ELL students.
“These kids really need it, but often can’t afford it,” said Jim Preston, summer school principal and assistant principal at Mt. Spokane High School. “This is the first year we’ve offered it tuition-free. The district also provides a bus schedule that covers some of the area, and students can eat lunch at Shiloh Hills Elementary.”
Summer school provides an opportunity for students to work on language skills as well as receive support and credit for algebra and English classes.
“It helps with continued assimilation into American culture,” said Preston.
On Thursday, Mohamed said, grinning, “I want the extra credit, but I kinda would rather be sleeping in.”
Jetina Mojilong, 16, agreed. “The hardest thing is getting up and going to school.”
Mojilong moved to the U.S. from the Marshall Islands in 2012.
“I want to get better at math and English,” she said.
Teacher Bonnie Murphy has witnessed the value of summer school. She’s been teaching for 40 years and has taught summer sessions most of those years.
“I love summer school,” she said. “These kids really need it. Some of them come from cultures where school is not valued.”
She said without reinforcement English language skills can quickly deteriorate.
“They’re not going to have English practice assistance at home, and they need continued exposure to the language.”
Furthermore, Murphy said the small classes during the summer allow students to get more comfortable with the language and with each other.
“Our goal is to help these kids graduate,” said Preston.
Murphy believes the program has been instrumental in achieving that goal.
“ELL kids who’ve stayed in summer school graduate at a higher rate than those who haven’t,” she said. “For many kids summer school is the place where they finally start believing in themselves.”
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