Gainesville is a welcoming place. We love to meet people from other states, and especially other countries. My old elementary school, J.J. Finley, is the primary school for Alachua County students who need to learn English. (The program is called ESOL, or English for Speakers of Other Languages. For middle school, Westwood has the ESOL program, and for high school, it’s Gainesville High.) 21% of the students at Finley are from other countries! “We are so lucky to have our ESOL population,” says Tami Delaney, ESOL coordinator at Finley. “We have a wonderfully diverse school where students learn at a very young age to accept people from other backgrounds. Students learn about the cultures of their classmates.”
That was definitely true for me. My family loved the annual international food festival, where the ESOL students’ families cook wonderful dishes from their homeland. Finley has students from Haiti, Iran, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Malaysia, China, Cuba, Costa Rica, Brazil, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Hungary, just to name a few. Over my years at Finley, I made several friends from China and learned a few Chinese words! I asked my friend Kevin Luo if he would be willing to share his experience for the blog. Here, you’ll see what great English he learned at Finley! Enjoy – and be sure to welcome the next English as a second language speaker you meet here in Gainesville!
Hi, everybody. I am Kevin, from China. Last December, I came here to meet my dad. When I arrived, I felt not only happy and excited, but also uneasy, because I could only speak a little English and knew nothing about Gainesville. In this city, I am just like an alien and curious about everything. This is the first time for me to come to America. I did not know anybody here except for my dad. I felt a little sad because I could not understand what other people said. Nor could I communicate with them. I thought I should improve my English.
After winter holiday, I came to elementary school and became a student of J.J. Finley Elementary School. This is a very good school. All teachers and classmates are very nice. They did everything to help me. When they talked about something with me, they spoke as slowly as possible, so that I could get it. In this school, there is an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Language) program. After lunch of each day, students from other countries went to ESOL room to learn English. Some ESOL teachers can speak Spanish. Sometimes, volunteers from University of Florida came to ESOL class as translators. They could give help in other languages. It is very convenient for ESOL students, particularly for the students who could hardly speak English.
In J.J Finley, there are many activities. For example, we have field trip programs. Last time, all the students of grade 5 visited Tampa Museum. We learned some interesting things about medical science, biology, electricity and physics. It was an exciting trip. All ESOL students in J.J. Finley are from other countries. So, our teachers gave us an International Food Festival. In that day afternoon, ESOL students and their parents brought their traditional food to school. In the campus, the flags of different countries were hung in the hallway. All the foods and the introduction cards were put on the long desks. The entire school including families had a chance to enjoy the delicious foods from all over the world.
Movie night is another fun activity. At that night, all students could come to school and enjoy the wonderful movie. Of course, they should be accompanied by their parents. Our teachers would also provide free popcorn and drinks. And don’t forget to bring sleeping bags! It is a very interesting thing to watch an open air movie in a sleeping bag.
I was a grade 5 student. This summer, we have a big graduation ceremony. All excellent students were commended. After that, we have an exciting party in the cafeteria. All teachers including our Principal took part in this party. Students had the chance to take photos with their teachers and friends. I think it is a good memory forever.
Now, I am a middle school student. But I always miss my J.J. Finley. It is a very pretty school. I also miss my friends and teachers. If you’re reading this blog post, you know how well they taught me English in less than a year!
Thanks to my friend Kevin, and, expect more posts! Will.