Grant to Provide Chromebooks for Massachusetts Students

The Immigrants' Assistance Center will use a $15,000 grant to buy Chromebooks, art supplies, school supplies and gift cards to grocery stores for New Bedford, Mass., elementary school students who are in need.

by Aimee Chiavaroli, The Standard-Times / April 23, 2020
Shutterstock/Evannovostro

(TNS) — Helena DaSilva Hughes, executive director of the Immigrants' Assistance Center in New Bedford, Mass., remembers well what it was like to be a young English language learner.

"I can understand the challenge of English language learners," she said. "I was one of those kids."

Under normal circumstances, it's difficult for children to get assistance from parents who have a language barrier and a low literacy level, she said.

It's even harder in these coronavirus times.

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DaSilva Hughes said she applauds the efforts of New Bedford Public Schools to connect with students but she knows that some elementary school English language learners (ELLs) don't have access to virtual learning. Students have gotten work packets, but when it comes to access to teachers virtually and online materials, they don't have it, she said.

That's why the center will use a $15,000 "emergency grant" from Sen. Mark Montigny's Children's Equality and Empowerment Fund to buy some Chromebooks, art supplies, school supplies and gift cards to grocery stores for New Bedford elementary school ELL students who are in need, she said.

The center has identified about 60 client families who need assistance, DaSilva Hughes said. About 25 of them will receive Chromebooks and others will receive supplies. Families can arrange to pick up the items at the center or center staff will drop them off at their homes. The center also plans to work with Comcast to make sure families have internet access, she said.

"If they don't (have access to virtual learning) they are going to be left behind," she said.

New Bedford elementary schools are loaning Chromebooks to families of students who requested them, district spokesman Arthur Motta said in an email.

Sonia Walmsley, district executive director of educational access and pathways, said remote learning for English learners may include large group video or audio conference calls, one on one phone or video calls, and other resources to engage students.

Teachers also consider ways that children can learn offline, too, Walmsley said in a statement. She listed a number of examples which include writing, reading, role playing, completing learning packets and even watching television.

Work for students could include keeping a journal of daily observations where they can write or draw depending on their English language proficiency level and write in their native language; writing what they know about a given topic before reading a book about it and then writing what they learned; writing a book report; setting up a specific role play scenario with siblings or parents and explaining what they learned; watching a teacher-recommended television program that is appropriate for their age and learning level with subtitles and discussing it with a teacher; and completing learning packets and reviewing or discussing them with a teacher.

"During these extraordinary times, we are grateful for the hard work and dedication you and your organization are providing to New Bedford youth," Montigny wrote in an April 7 letter to DaSilva Hughes, announcing the grant. "The needs across our community are staggering, and access to proper nutrition, school supplies, technology, and other necessities are central to ensuring youth development and continued access to stimulating arts, culture, and recreation."

©2020 The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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