How Community Partnerships Can Transform the High School Experience

This is the second part of a two-part series about International High School at Langley Park, a school that is fostering community partnerships to help serve their English-language learners.

There is a great deal of research on the benefit of school-community partnerships. As the assistant principal at International High School at Langley Park (IHSLP), I have seen firsthand the benefits that can unfold when partners work together to improve educational offerings for young people. I previously described how our partners drove the creation of IHSLP as a school that would serve the many English-language learner (ELL) students in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Partnerships helped launch the school, and they continue to be a key approach in serving our ELL students. While most of our partnerships focus on students, a select few have revolved around professional development (PD) of our staff. In our first year, physical education teacher Christine Gilliard-Arthur received the Christa McAuliffe Teacher of the Year award for Prince George’s County, and science teacher Paula Amadeo was accepted into the World Smarts STEM Challenge and will be traveling to Ghana as she prepares to lead IHSLP in STEM competitions against schools from around the world. Meanwhile, I spent time teaching and learning in the Sierra Negra region of Mexico and brought a visiting Mexican educator to IHSLP thanks to a joint partnership with Teach For America and Enseña Por Mexico.

Fostering connections and opportunities

In our first year, our 99 students hailed from 19 different countries. Many had never set foot on a college campus, and college seemed like an unattainable fantasy rather than a realistic goal. A partnership with the University of Maryland gave students an opportunity to visit the campus, and they had a great time touring the school and facilities, visiting classes, eating in the student union and speaking with current Maryland undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, a partnership with the Latin America Education Forum Conference at the Harvard University Graduate School for Education provided an IHSLP student and teacher with an opportunity to speak on a panel about education in light of migration. Photo of IHSLP student Katya Garcia at the Latin American Education Forum Youth Arts Exhibit courtesy of Nina Silverstein. IHSLP student Katya Miranda Garcia, 15, was the youngest panelist at the conference, and her artwork entitled “The Roots of My Family” was featured at the LAEF Youth Arts Exhibit. Community partnerships have also brought an outstanding array of extracurricular opportunities to IHSLP. Our wonderful art teacher, Chrissy Wilkin, partnered with world-renowned Salvadoran artist Frida Larios, who led weekly art workshops as part of our extracurricular art club. Likewise, student Adrian Mubiru, a 16-year-old from Uganda, participated in the Tobacco Prevention Student Ambassador Program, where he attended weekly sessions at Bowie State University and raised awareness at IHSLP about the dangers of youth tobacco use.

Building on the foundation

We are excited to bring four new partnerships into IHSLP for the 2016-2017 school year. A partnership with La Clínica Del Pueblo will bring remote mental health services to IHSLP students. Students will be able to connect with Spanish-speaking doctors, therapists, counselors and other mental health professors via webcam during the school day if a need arises. A partnership with World Lens Foundation will bring a photography club to IHSLP. World Lens Foundation is a nonprofit that aims to connect students from classrooms around the world through storytelling and digital photography. Through the Interactive Storytellers platform, IHSLP students will partner with students from Nicaragua. Students will have access to a six-month specialized curriculum and use digital cameras throughout the year to document their lives and share personal narratives with students from around the world. This pairs very nicely with a new initiative we are launching in conjunction with the I Learn America documentary, wherein IHSLP students will be using a variety of media to create a digital library of personal narratives detailing their own migrations to the United States. Students will work on this project in their English classes and they will be encouraged to share their stories with community members. Lastly, we are beyond excited to launch the first official year of our partnership with Soccer Without Borders, a nonprofit that uses soccer as a vehicle to promote social, emotional, behavioral and academic growth among refugee and immigrant youth. A full-time youth development associate will be based within IHSLP during the school day. She will lead curricular program centered on youth development, social-emotional growth, college and career readiness and an extracurricular program centered on soccer and team building. At IHSLP, we still have a long way to go until we reach our true potential as a “wraparound school.” However, I can say with confidence that we are in the process of building exactly the kind of school we set out to be when we launched, and our community partners have contributed greatly toward our vision of supporting every student in their path to success.
Photo of IHSLP students playing soccer courtesy of Daniel Sass.
Daniel Sass is originally from Connecticut. He is an alumnus of both the University of Michigan and the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. He spent seven years as an English teacher in Baltimore City and in Prince George’s County. Currently, he is the assistant principal at the International High School at Langley Park. He also serves as the school’s soccer coach and tennis coach. ...

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