The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


ELL Students Learning to Adjust

By Eva Sailly
Freshman Eman Mohamed came from Sudan this February.  Her family was refugees because of the civil war occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan which first began in 2003.  Her family went to the UN in Jordan to seek refuge.  It took nine years of waiting to get the papers necessary to come to the United States.  She is currently enrolled in the ELL program at Northwest.We have all heard about ELL, the English Language Learner Program. We know it’s a program for students who are learning English as a second language.  But to be honest, that’s it. The people, the struggles, the stories behind the unknown faces, minds don’t care to wander that far. Those who have taken a foreign language know how hard it is. At first, everything sounds like nothing but aimless noise flowing out of the teacher’s mouth, and you think:  How could I ever begin to comprehend what that?   Now imagine that everyone around you speaks this foreign tongue, and somehow you’re expected to learn how to read and write and speak just like them, fast.  There is no one there to translate for you in your own language. Not to mention you don’t know a living soul in the crowd of strangers’  faces.  This is what the students who are a part of ELL faced everyday when they first came here, and some are feeling this now.

“People treat you well, but everything was different,”  Mohamed said,  “It was hard because I didn’t know anyone.”

The number of students 5 to 17 years old who are part of an English Language Learner program has risen from 4.7 to 11.2 million since the 1980s (  Along with the challenges of learning a new language and simply trying to fit into a new way of life come other problems ELL students have to face. Being picked on simply because they are different or speak with an accent can be an issue.

“Most people were nice to me,” junior Jonah Lawrencia said. “A few girls treated me badly. They make fun of you, no English. But I am here to start, to achieve something.  You have to be strong.  I didn’t listen to them.”

Lawrencia came to Northwest from Ghana last year.  She had the opportunity to come with her brothers because her father was already living in Shawnee.  Her siblings are planning to come this June; however, her mother and several other siblings still live in Ghana.

“I came here to study and achieve my dream,”  Lawrencia said. “After I achieve my career, I want to go back to see my people.”

Lawrencia is working to become an immigration lawyer.  Immigration is a long and complicated process. She would have been able to graduate this year, but problems with immigration caused her to lose time from her schooling and eventually held her back.

“I don’t like not being able to graduate.” Lawrencia said. “ It’s my year to graduate. That is why I want to be an immigration lawyer, so I can help my country.”

ELL teachers work with students closely every day to ensure success.  They not only help the students focus on reading, writing, listening, and speaking English but on how to adjust.

“The ELL teachers are good to me.” Lawrencia said. “They have been so helpful and made me feel welcome. They do an awesome job.”

ELL students are teenagers just like you and me, but they have to adjust to a new language, a new culture and, for some, separation from their family and friends and way of life.

“It was hard because no one knew me.”  junior Rodolfo Lopez said. “No one really talked to me besides asking me questions.  It was lonely.  I missed my old friends.  They were like brothers from another mother.”

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ELL Students Learning to Adjust