OU’s Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) hosted 18 students from Oklahoma City Public Schools in the inaugural English for Leadership and Civic Engagement Summer Program (ELCE) June 2-14, an innovative new effort designed to show immigrant students how improving their English language skills is a gateway to not only making a positive impact in their communities, but also to achieving their dreams.
The students—ranging from 10th to 12th grade—attended one of two weeklong camp sessions that focused on developing and refining their English language skills, while also teaching them leadership, advocacy and civic engagement skills that will allow them to advocate for and create change in their schools and communities. They stayed in the dorms on the OU campus, while being immersed in English language learning and civic engagement through workshops, field trips and guest speakers, as well as a college and career exploration fair, a nutrition fair and a variety of recreational activities.
The week culminated with the students impressing their local senator and representative—Sen. Carri Hicks and Rep. Jacob Rosecrants—at the Oklahoma state capitol, where they were able to discuss their projects and the very real concerns that were the source of their ideas. With topics ranging from the need for more ESL classes and resources, recycling programs and drug prevention programs in communities and schools, to steps that can be taken to improve student safety and student-teacher interactions in schools, as well as the need for college scholarships for undocumented students and programs to address homelessness, the students showed that they have an abundance of ideas about how to improve the quality of life for their communities.
"I can't overstate how important it is for us, as representatives, to not only listen to young folk of all cultures and from all walks of life, but to be moved to action by what they say," Rosecrants said in a Facebook post following the visit.
ELCE program director and co-instructor Jaime Ladd was pleased with how camps that started as an idea on a paper tablecloth have led to these first groups of immigrant students to not only understand that they have the power to change their communities for the better, but they can also strive for a better future for themselves.
“Our students came here with an uncertain career pathway because of the many unique challenges that English language learners must overcome,” she said, “and now they’re leaving wanting to be architects, psychiatrists, nurses and firefighters.”
To learn more about the English for Leadership and Civic Engagement Summer Camp (ELCE), call (405) 325-0754.