Forty-one high school Migrant Education students spent a month living in San Diego State University dorms this summer, taking part in the 4th Annual Summer English Immersion Program.
The four-week program placed students on the SDSU campus, provided lectures and classes on a wide-range of academic and social topics, and gave participants the chance to experience the life of university students.
Among the presenters was San Diego County Office of Education Gang Risk Intervention coordinator Anthony Ceja. " The students were extremely interested and attentive," Ceja said. "The message we wanted them to get was, 'Believe in yourselves. College is for you. This is where you need to be coming.'"
The Summer English Immersion Program, organized by the Imperial County Office of Education, strives to break the language barrier for Latino students. Although Ceja's gang prevention information was of major interest, the program's primary focus is on improving reading, writing, oral and social skills of the migrant students. Students who did not pass at least one class during the regular school year, or who have not yet passed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), were eligible for the program. Students completing the program receive 10 credits toward graduation.
Prior to entering the program students were tested in reading, writing and oral skills. Upon exiting they were retested on the same material, and program coordinator Epifanio Torres said, "The post-test usually proves that most students grow 2-3 grade levels over the course of the program."
"I joined the Summer English Immersion Program because I want a better life and education," said Laura Alvarez, a 10th grade student at Southwest High School in the Sweetwater Union High District. "After completing this program I now know the importance of speaking English and learning to adapt to new environments. The most difficult part of the program was the oral portion, but I can now say that my English has improved a lot."
During the program students maintained a rigorous schedule that included classes Monday through Friday, from 8-4 pm, and evening study hall sessions. Students used public transportation, and went on field trips to Coronado Island, Balboa Park, Horton Plaza, Mission Bay and Petco Park, where they were guests of the Padres for a ballgame.
The students also spent a day with their families on the SDSU campus for "Parent Day." Family members came to SDSU by bus to see the campus, get information on the program, and spend time with their children in the collegiate setting. Students performed a play based on the life of a typical migrant family.
"When I first started the Summer Immersion Program I had a sense of nervousness," said Ricardo Chavez, an 11th grade student at Calexico High School in Imperial County. "After being a part of this program I have adapted to a system of learning that is helpful to me."
Since 1993, the Imperial County Office of Education migrant education program has assisted migrant students to meet the state's challenging content and performance standards. "The Summer English Immersion Program has been proven to be very effective for our students," said Torres. "Most of them leave the program with a lot more confidence and that's what it takes to be successful in today's society."