Professional Development

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A Look at Literacy: ourBRIDGE for KIDS

The Afterschool Alliance, in partnership with Dollar General Literacy Foundation, recently honored ourBRIDGE for KIDS in Charlotte, North Carolina, for demonstrated excellence in helping develop literacy skills of English language learner students.

Executive Director Sil Ganzó offers an inside look at the program.

How many English language learner students does ourBRIDGE for KIDS serve, and from what backgrounds?

For the past three years, ourBRIDGE has served nearly 80 ELL students from three Title I elementary schools. Starting in fall 2017, we will expand our services to welcome and additional 50 sixth-grade ELL students.

Students represent over 20 cultures of Southeast Asia, Latin America, Middle East and Africa.


What specific challenges do your ELL students face?

Many of ourBRIDGE students have struggled with complex issues such as poverty, life in refugee camps, cultural shock, and learning English as an additional language—while at the same time understanding and coping with a new culture and social expectations.

Why is family engagement important to help students make academic and literacy-related gains? How does your program facilitate family involvement?

Before a child joins ourBRIDGE, our program coordinator conducts a home visit accompanied by an interpreter, if needed, in order to ensure absolute understanding of our mission, programming and logistics, as well as the expectation and encouragement of family involvement.

To ensure accurate communication—and with the help of several leaders in the community—we translate every document, brochure, authorization form and notes from teachers into four main languages: Spanish, Arabic, Burmese and Nepali.

ourBRIDGE keeps an open-door policy and invites parents to become volunteers and chaperones during field trips, at the center and for special events. Many of ourBRIDGE students' parents are not able to volunteer at their children's schools; for this reason, ourBRIDGE organizes a family field trip once a year. Parents, siblings and extended family members are invited to join us and be part of a great childhood memory with their children.

What resources does ourBRIDGE for KIDS provide families?

With the recent move to a center that is three times bigger and closer to the communities where our families live, we are now able to expand the resources we offer ourBRIDGE parents.

Starting in the falll—and with the partnership and support from community partners—ourBRIDGE will offer English as a second language (ESL) classes, gardening, legal advice, nutrition information, literacy assistance, financial planning workshops, and a legal forum on topics such as citizenship, health care, home-buying, credit-building, financial literacy, first aid and how to support students' academic progress at home.

How does your program foster student listening and communication skills?

ourBRIDGE has partnered with Lily Sarah Grace (LSG), an educational 501c3 organization that brings art and creativity to the classrooms.

ourBRIDGE and LSG are developing an arts-infused curriculum that uses questions, problems and scenarios to help students learn through their own curiosity and investigation. This will provide ourBRIDGE students with multiple means of expression while promoting learning through natural inquisitiveness.

By offering a student-driven curriculum that includes highly engaging activities, students motivate themselves and each other to listen, understand and communicate back with their peers, enriching their vocabulary and improving their proficiency.

Photos courtesy of ourBRIDGE for KIDS.