Informational picnic feeds minds and bellies of CHS’ English Learner families


J. Dollins

EL students and their families enjoy a picnic dinner on the CHS lawn.

Jeremiah Dollins, Pepper Bough Adviser

Colton, CA—Both the minds and bellies of Colton High’s English Learners and their families were fed tonight at the first annual EL Meet & Greet Picnic Event. The event was organized and put on by CHS’ English Language Development team, who provided families with important information about the school’s EL program before providing a picnic feast.

CHS students focus intently on EL program requirements in Ms. Medina’s classroom. (J. Dollins)

Jennifer Cruz, Language Support Teacher on Assignment, said the event was the result of a collaborative brainstorm by the team as they talked about ways to inform their students about essentials like ELPAC testing, reclassification requirements out of the program, and the possibility of earning biliteracy seals on their diplomas. “We were talking about starting the school year by building community with our students. We discovered we were only reaching students in ELD, but we wanted to expand to the entire community of EL students.”

The result was an event beginning with in-class presentations from the EL staff and supporting counselors about the program’s requirements and supports. Freshmen and Senior students were led in a presentation by Ms. Alexandra Medina and Ms. Leticia Gomez. Sophomore and Junior students were instructed by Ms. Eileen Garza and Ms. Marisol Rodriguez. Presentations were given in both English and Spanish.

As parents left the classrooms to enjoy a picnic dinner on the lawn, many were very excited by the information shared. One parent expressed excitement about the possibility of her daughter earning a biliteracy seal on her high school diploma.

Colton High parent Gabriella Garcia shared her desire to join the school’s English Language Advisory Committee, which meets monthly during the school year to discuss the ELD program to make decisions that better support student success. “I really want to be involved,” she said.

Overall, families were thrilled they were given this opportunity to meet and interact with their students’ teachers and learn more about what will happen in the classroom.

Principal Murphy, alongside counselors Ms. Daisy Ruiz and Ms. Myrna Cardenas, serves up picnic treats for one of Colton’s EL families. (J. Dollins)

The EL population at Colton High School comprises 15% of the student body. They face many challenges during the school year. Besides needing additional support handling the rigors of language-rich courses, EL students strive to earn their reclassification. They must score proficient on the annual state ELPAC and CAASPP exams as well as on teacher scored writing samples. The pressures and demands are high.

When asked what the most important thing she wanted parents to take away from this Meet & Greet Picnic, Ms. Cruz said, “Making them aware they have allies, that there are people on campus who are sensitive to their needs. We really want to support their language development and let them know they have resources on campus.”

Ms. Eileen Garza, grade 11 ELD teacher, added, “I don’t want them to get burned out taking the ELPAC. We want to encourage and give them confidence to do it so they can be reclassified.”

This event was a great start toward building the confidence of Colton High’s students and their families.