NEW ROCHELLE, NY — When Trinity Elementary School fifth-graders Erick Alvarez and Catalina Fuentes recently showed a new schoolmate from Guatemala around the building, they were kicking off a program to help welcome students from other countries and those who do not yet speak English fluently.
Alvarez and Fuentes gave their tour in Spanish, visiting the main office, nurses’ office, auditorium and cafeteria, and introducing their new friend to the CAMPEL (computer, art, music, physical education and library) teachers.
“I think he liked it because whenever he met a CAMPEL teacher, they smiled at him and he smiled back,” said Alvarez.
The tour adds a welcoming touch to the process for taking in new students. That process is a collaboration among Assistant Principal Michael Hilderbrand, Melissa Kelly, four English-as-a-new-language teachers, and Tiara Reyes-Vega, the District’s Director of Instructional Support. It also involves meetings with the student and parents and recommendations from ENL and bilingual/dual language teachers to determine the best program for the student. This initiative is part of Trinity’s English Language Learner screening, identification, and placement process mandated by the New York State Education Department.
“To be a student who is new to the country, and new to the school, it’s critical to feel welcome and connected, not just by the adults, but by your peers,” Hilderbrand said.
The school of 850 students receives newcomers throughout the year, many from other countries, and some who have been to several other schools before arriving in New Rochelle.
“A lot of them have moved a few times,” Kelly said. “After a tour, we find that they feel more comfortable and adjusted on the first day.”
Fuentes agreed that the new student seemed to appreciate the introduction to the school. “I think he felt good knowing what the school looked like,” she said.