Highline School District Secondary English Language Learners Share Stories


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Emily Nguyen reads from her winning entry at Wednesday night's event. Watching on the left is Highline School Distrct Secondary ELL Facilitator Stephanie Forman.

The Highline School District held an Awards Celebration and Reading for winners of its 2010 – 2011 Writing Contest for Secondary English Language Learners at the Burien Library Wednesday night (April 20th), with many students reading their entries.

BTB Publisher/Editor Scott Schaefer served as one of the judges for this contest, which featured student’s stories about struggles adapting to a new culture. Some stories were amazing, others heartfelt, but all were impressive for

The entire contest and event was facilitated by Secondary ELL Facilitator Stephanie Forman.

Credit also goes out to HSD’s Bernard Koontz, Language and Cultural Arts Coordinator, as well as Teri Hein and Alicia Craven of 826 Seattle, a nonprofit writing center.

Here’s a list of the student winners:

  • Chalachew Shiferaw, Global Connections
  • Jean Ben-Oni Eliezer, Global Connections
  • Alexis Tapia, AAA
  • Sanyasen Serbulo, Cascade
  • Efrem Woldemariam, Sylvester
  • Emily Nguyen, Sylvester
  • Diego Munoz, Sylvester
  • Kham Sian Kip, Sylvester
  • Sergio Anaya, Sylvester
  • Jose De Jesus Roque Torres, Sylvester
  • Som Maya Subba, Sylvester
  • Kumar Teve, Sylvester
  • Maedeh Pirjamali Nesiani, Sylvester

Below are some of the winning entries, written by students – when reading these, keep in mind these kids are Secondary English Language Learners:

How Both Of My Cultures Effect Me
by Maedeh Pirjamali Neisiani

As an Iranian American I am proud of having two cultures, I know how to talk in English, Farsi, and Turkish, and also how to write in English and Farsi as well. Isn’t that amazing? My two cultures make me who I am.

Language is a very important thing to me that makes me who I am. We have classes for people that want to learn how to write and read in Farsi, but sometimes the pronunciations can be difficult. “Salam man sizdah sall daram” means “hello, I am thirteen years old.” Farsi writing starts from right to left. I encourage people to learn Farsi.

My favorite holiday that we celebrate is New Years, it’s my favorite because we give gifts to each other and we make various kinds of foods. We decorate our tables with seven things that start with the letter “S” in Farsi, so we call it Haft Sin. These are the names: sekeh, somangh, serkeh, sir, sib, and sebzeh. We can’t get all of the items in the U.S., but because our new year is very important to us we call family in Iran and we tell them to send the items to us. Our new year is coming up at March 21st I am so excited.

Some people treat me differently just because of my accent and that makes me sad. For example last year I was talking in English but people didn’t understand a word I said, and they said that they felt bad for me. After a while I thought and said “well I feel bad for you because I know how to talk in three different languages, but you can only speak English.”

Even though I face some difficulties because of my two cultures, I still know that I will have a bright future and I am here to learn and to do my best. I am Persian and I am proud of it.

Som Maya Subba, of Sylvester Middle School, reads her entry Wednesday night.

Reading and Writing
by Som Maya Subba

In Nepal I never like to read and write, but here is America I do.  There were many reasons why it was difficult for me to read and write in Nepal.  When I came to America I learned many things, but the most important thing was read and write.  This is what I going to write about it.

In my country, the teachers are very tricky it was very difficult for me to write and learn how to read.  Because the teacher would hurt silent students.  They would kick, pull your hair, and slap you.  So wjem teachers hurt students we would get angry and not want to read and write.  Sometimes teachers do not help you because teachers are mean.

At night, when we tried to read and write or do homework, we had no oil for lamps and it was very hard to read, write, or do homework.  Teachers hurt students sometimes we were late for school.  We didn’t have bus so we had to walk to school.  School was so far sometimes we were late for school.
In Nepal when we tried to read and write but other students talked loudly in Nepali and it makes it difficult to work and difficult to think so we were not able to pass the final exam and we had to study in the same class next year.

In America it is very easy to read and write because teachers are kind and we can read and write at night we don’t have oil problems because we have electricity light at my home so we can read at night.  I can do think that I could not do at my country.  When I came to America I learn to like reading and writing.  My parents told me to read, I am learning, I am learning about American.

Growing Up As a Kid in Samoa
by Kumar Teve

As a kid growing up in Samoa, my favorite thing to do was cook.  I learned how to cook many foods and learned how to prepare food.  I like to cook because it helped my family.  I learned how to cook by watching my family cook.  There are many different kind of food I like to cook.  Cooking in Samoa vs. USA is way different.

One of the reasons I like to cook because I could help my mother to cook while she’s at work.  Another reason I liked to cook was to help my mom to stop cooking because she work the whole time and come home and she was tired.  Because she works from 12 am in the morning through 12pm at the afternoon.
First I want to tell what is my favorite think to cook is banana and taro chips because it one of the easiest thing to cook.  The other think I like to cook is young coconut soup because coconut is one of my favorite fruit t eat.  Another thing I like to cook is fish with coconut because is my favorite seafood to eat.

Second of all in Samoa we don’t use oven.  But the way we baked our food we burn the rocks to put the food on it.  But when we baked our food it takes only five to ten minute to bake.  But the way we cooked our food in a pot we use different kind of stuff, we used two banana branch and two hard metals to put the pot on.  And we need coconut leaves and the coconut cup.

Finally I want to talk about how I learned to cook.  I learned how to cook by watching my mom cook.  The other way I learned to cook is I taught myself how to cook.  The other way I know how to cook is I go to cooking class at school when schools end.

So now you know about me that cooking is my favorite thing to do.  And how I learned how to cook and now tell me something that you do in your country.  I cooked in Samoa and here in the United States.  But my dreams are that I want to be a chef when I get older.

“La De La Mochila Azul”
by Jose De Jesus Roque Torres

“La De La Mochila Azul,” is a song that I would hear often on the radio when I lived in Mexico and it is an important reminder of where I’m from.  I have been living in the United States since 2001.  Now it is 2011.  I have lived here for 10 years.  One thing that my parents had to do to come to America was cross the bother.  When crossing the border, they came into land of different language, music, and celebrations.  As a Mexican American, both my Mexican experiences and my American experiences share who I am today.

Language is an important part of my culture.  I used to speak Spanish but now I speak Spanish and English.  Spanish is important to me because it is my native language.  English is important to me because it helps me communicate with other people.

Music is another part of my culture.  Even though I am in America, now I can still listen to Mexican music like corridos, duranguse, rancheras, and bandas.  Music is important to me because it belongs in my past but I still listen to it now.

A final part of my daily culture is my celebrations.  I celebrate Mexican holidays with my family.  We get together to eat our cultural food like tamales and nopalitos.  My favorite Mexican holiday is the day of the Virgin De Guadalupe.  We celebrate her day on December 12th.  We go to parties and go to two churches and sing songs about the Virgin De Guadalupe.  This is important because it makes me feel happy and connects me to the Virgin De Guadalupe, my first mom.  Daily culture is important to me because it is what I have been missing about Mexico.

My identity as a Mexican-American has been formed by my experiences with language, music, and celebrations.  These three parts of my life connect me to my past in Mexico and they are an important part of my present in Washington.  In the future, I will return to Mexico to speak my language, hear my music, and celebrate my holidays in my native land.

I Am From Peru
by Diego Munoz

As a Peruvian, both my Peruvian experiences and my American experience shape who I am today.  My name is Diego Munoz, I am from Peru and speak Spanish.  I came to United States on December 3rd, 2009.  I have been in the United States for one year.  My grandfather and grandmother came to the United States five years ago.  I live with my family here: my cousins, grandfather, grandmother, aunt, and my mom.

Both my Peruvian and American friends are important to me because in Peru, my friends and I watched soccer games or sometimes we played outside.  Both in Peru and in the U.S.A. my friends and I we always played video games.  My Favorite game is Soccer.  In the United States, my friends teach my how to celebrate American culture and they help me with my homework.

My family always teaches me important things.  They send me to school to learn more English.  My family is learning English too and we help each other by reading books or the newspaper together.  I always talk with my family who is still in Peru.  They also teach me good stuff in doing my homework, and being early in school everyday.  Also we go every Sunday to church.  The church is called “LLamada Final” In the church everybody speaks Spanish when I am with my family at the church, I feel relaxed.  The songs remind me of Peru, and I feel good.

My food is important to me because it reminds me of my country, In the United States, I eat rice with chicken, but it has a different flavor than my country, in kinds of food people eat in Peru and the U.S.A. are different too.  Some foods, like corn, apples, oranges, and bananas though taste the same.  For example in Peru at my lunch, I are juice with milk or sometimes Peruvian food like “Ceviche” or “Anticuchos”.

As a Peruvian, both my Peruvian experiences and American experiences shape who I am today.  My friends are important to me because we are always together.  My family is important to me because they teach me good things.  My food is important to me because it reminds me of my country.

We’d like to send out a huge congrats to these students, who not only overcame their fear of trying to write in a new language, but overcame the fear of public speaking in front of a crowd – there were at least 50 people there.

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One Response to “Highline School District Secondary English Language Learners Share Stories”
  1. Rebecca Dare says:

    I love this — wish I’d been there to hear the stories in person. My husband and I volunteer with New Futures to help students (who are learning English) with homework for a short time one day a week, and find it a wonderful experience. We are constantly amazed at what these kids have to learn, quickly, to go to school with kids their own age.

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