Three CCSD students and two of their teachers have been honored with a new Georgia Department of Education recognition!
The new Georgia ESOL Star Learner program honors students who speak English as a second language; CCSD nominated students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, extra-curricular involvement and outstanding attendance and conduct.
Only 27 students statewide were selected for the honor, including Class of 2016 graduating seniors Lucas Barros and Kathy Keodouangdy of Etowah High School and Brian Quintana-Guzman of River Ridge High School.
Each Georgia ESOL Star Learner had the opportunity to nominate a Georgia ESOL Star Teacher, and they chose Pamela Holman of Etowah HS and Autumn Hamilton of River Ridge HS.
The Star Learners and Teachers will be recognized by the Georgia DOE at an Achievement Award Ceremony on Wednesday, May 11.
Lucas, who has a 3.25 GPA and currently is enrolled in AP Physics, played two years on the school soccer team and designed and created a bicycle-powered energy source to charge a cell phone.
“In class, he was always asking questions, helping others and desiring feedback on ways he could improve his speaking and writing,” Ms. Holman said. “He never backed down from anything hard and overcame any language barrier in order to meet standards in his classes.”
Lucas said Ms. Holman’s ESOL classes did more than improve his reading, speaking and writing skills.
“It changed my life because I learned how to communicate better to other people and assimilate in the American culture,” he said.
Kathy, who has a 3.5 GPA and also works part-time in retail fashion, plans to study fashion design after graduation… her senior project was creating a dress of her own design.
“I have had the pleasure of watching her blossom from a shy girl from Laos to an outgoing, thriving young woman with a future in college and a bright career in fashion design,” Ms. Holman said. “She has a happy disposition all of the time and has built a community for herself where she is beloved and respected by her teachers and friends.”
Kathy sees Ms. Holman as part of that special community.
“She was the one who actually noticed me, pushed me forward, and forced me to realize that I was actually a somebody, and not just anybody, someone who would someday make a difference,” Kathy said of her teacher.
Brian, who has a 3.5 GPA, plays soccer and tennis and volunteers at school and church, including as a mentor to newcomers at River Ridge HS.
“Often I would sit with Brian and help him work through the ‘How you say?’ conundrum that often plagues our newcomers,” Ms. Hamilton said. “Even at times when he was frustrated, he kept a constructive, optimistic attitude. He knew he had to keep working if he was going to make it.”
Brian said Ms. Hamilton’s support went beyond teaching him English.
“Living in the United States as a foreign student is the hardest challenge I have ever faced in my life. But with the help of Mrs. Hamilton, I have been able to go through this challenge,” he said. “In the beginning, like any other kid, I had trouble learning the language and also making friends, but Mrs. Hamilton never gave up on me.”