Brandywine students participate as panelists at statewide symposium

The shift from high school to college can be a difficult transition for any student, but for those who speak English as a second language, the change can prove especially challenging.

Six Penn State Brandywine students, Malaika Hamid, Trinh Ma, Abdul Ali, Fatoumata Karamoko, Lazina Chowdhury and Shihabul Islam, along with Christine Brown, Brandywine Learning coordinator, and Debbie Ousey, Writing Studio coordinator, participated on the "Ask the Students: English Language Learners and the Transition to College" panel at the Chester County Intermediate Unit's English Language Learners (ELL) Symposium. These students also participated in Penn State Brandywine's American Studies Course Cluster for multilingual students their freshman year.

student panelists

Brandywine students, (from left to right) Malaika Hamid, Trinh Ma, Abdul Ali, Lazina Chowdhury, Fatoumata Karamoko and Shihabul Islam, participate as panelist at the English Language Learners (ELL) symposium.

The symposium, a three-day conference held in Downingtown, was attended by over 100 kindergarten through 12th grade ESL (English as a second language) teachers, general education teachers and administrators from Pennsylvania. The event focused on how to engage students who are learning the English language.

The student panelists spoke candidly about their experiences as ESL students sharing their advice and insight for ESL teachers.

"I shared with the teachers to read aloud to the students while they follow along, have a writing exercise for students in the first five to 10 minutes of class, go over papers and writing exercises with each student individually and encourage the students to ask for help and keep working hard," Ma, a senior, said.

Ousey explained how students not only need tutoring and writing assistance in high school, they also need assistance during the college application process. In many cases, the parents of these students do not speak English and the students are forced to apply for financial aid on their own. Therefore, the ESL teachers are not only helping with typical schoolwork, but also shift gears to assist with college applications, essays and financial aid forms. 

"The program at my high school, 'LGR,' Let's Get Ready, was very helpful for me and my classmates when I applied for college," Chowdhury, a sophomore, said. "The class provided SAT prep and help with writing my college essay."

The symposium also allowed the educators to learn about available resources for ESL students after high school, like the American Studies Course Cluster at Brandywine. This program provides first-year students a cluster of courses and intensive tutoring to assist non-native English speaking students to improve their academic reading and writing skills.

"ESL teachers like to know about our programs," Ousey said. "They can encourage their students to apply to Brandywine, knowing we have support on campus, like the American Studies Cluster."

Attendees spoke highly of the session. ESL teachers have since contacted Brown and Ousey to continue discussing resources available at Brandywine for future students.