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Can you say 'Go Orioles' in Yoruba?

Avon's English Language team supports growing population of English learners and their families

While enrollment continues growing steadily in Avon Schools, the numbers are surging in one important demographic—students who speak English as a second language. Our English Language (EL) team is expanding to meet the need.

The numbers are astounding:

  • More than 300 new students with a language other than English have enrolled in Avon Schools since August 2020.
  • Approximately 76% of these new students have qualified for EL services.
  • Nearly three dozen additional students may begin receiving services soon.
  • More than 90 languages are spoken in Avon students' homes.

The number of students receiving EL services in Avon Schools has grown at the rate of two students per school day. Enrollment grew from 637 students in August 2020 to 1,002 as of September 1, 2021.

"Our mission is, first and foremost, to support our EL students in the classrooms so we can close those achievement gaps," says EL Coordinator Angela Rasor. "We work to support their families so they can support the students, too." Rasor, an Avon Schools employee since 1999, has paired her Literacy training with a passion for supporting EL students and their families, integrating them into life as not only students who speak a different language but as Avon Orioles—valued and fully participating members of the student body. When Rasor started in her current role, there were 316 EL students. As the population has grown in recent years, so has the EL team. Avon Schools now employs 14 EL specialists (the number will soon climb to 16) and 11 more will complete their EL certifications by the end of this school year. 

Two of the members of the EL team who carry the responsibility of supporting EL students and their families are Family Liaisons Rosa Liz and Seliat Yekinni-Elebute.

"Our job entails a little bit of everything," says Liz, who grew up in The Bronx before moving to the Midwest. She has been serving EL students and their families in Avon for seven years. Fluent in Spanish, she is one of the first people with whom many of our new EL students and families interact. Serving EL students and their families is a passion for Liz, and it enables her to learn and appreciate different cultures. "[When I visit the homes of our EL students,] the families are so excited. They welcome us, want to share meals with us, and the kids get really excited to show me their homes." says Liz. "I get to know the families and they get to know me. They know that I care and that I am here for them."

Fluent in English and her native language Yoruba, Yekinni-Elebute is already making an outsized impact upon the large Nigerian population that has settled in Avon. (Yoruba recently eclipsed Punjabi as the third most spoken language in Avon students' homes, behind English and Spanish.) Yekinni-Elebute, an Avon Schools employee since August, says, "Our support goes far beyond the language barrier. Many EL students keep their voices low when they are at school. They feel uncomfortable having an accent that is different from others in class, so they don't express themselves. I talk with parents and the kids about things like this and build one-to-one relationships with them."

The goal is to help students succeed and to feel welcome in the community and school in which they find themselves.

Seliat Yekinni-Elebute

Avon's reputation, built on years of providing excellent support to EL students and their families, is growing rapidly and fueling enrollment increases. They know Avon is a school corporation in which their kids are less likely to be overlooked or left behind, and there is no indication that enrollment growth is slowing down.

"All of our students in the EL program are an asset and benefit to our schools," says Rasor. "A lot of times, people may tend to think these students are low achieving and they're not. A lot of them could be in our high ability program. You have to be pretty intelligent to be bilingual."

Rasor, Liz, and Yekinni-Elebute point out that supporting EL students and their families doesn't stop when students leave school. It's the job of the entire community. They encourage all Avon residents to take an active role in supporting our neighbors as they acclimate to life in Avon.

This article's title raises a question. How do you say 'Go Orioles' in Yoruba? It's EYIN IBAKA,OYA!