NEW HELP FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS AT MVLA SCHOOLS
SAN JOSE – Following two of the most challenging school years in recent memory, Mountain View Los Altos High School District (MVLA) is employing a new resource to make it easier for students learning English to get much-needed support. The program is funded by Santa Clara County, and was proposed by County Supervisor Joe Simitian.
Starting in December 2021, a case manager from Community Services Agency (CSA) is now stationed on site at MVLA’s schools to provide targeted support and social services to English Language Learner (ELL) students and their families, with a particular focus on students who entered the U.S. within the past three years.
“Our high schools are great at providing education to young folks, but sometimes they need additional help connecting students and their families with support services that will help them thrive” said Simitian. “This partnership with MVLA and CSA offers students who are learning a new language, and are often new to the area, the specialized support they need during a critical time in their lives. Students and their families now have a ‘go-to’ person to ask questions and seek support from when they’re experiencing a tough time.”
Last year Simitian spearheaded a $250,000 grant to CSA to support this effort for three years.
“CSA has a long history of partnering with our local schools,” said Tom Myers, CSA’s Executive Director. “But this effort represents an exciting new opportunity to create a kind of ‘one-stop shop’ on campus for students to get access to a wide variety of services from someone they trust and see all the time. I’m hopeful this effort will allow us to reach out even earlier to students and families that are struggling.”
Diana Contreras-Chavez, the new program’s case manager, said, “In this role, I’d like to develop a strong relationship with the students and their families. New coming families are resilient by taking the journey to get here. Now I’d like to make sure they get the support they need to become empowered, to be their own advocates, and comfortable in their new home. I look forward to meeting and supporting more students and their families during this new semester.”
MVLA currently serves 291 ELL students, including 129 that entered the U.S. in just the past three years. Nearly half of these students receive free and reduced lunch, and the need for additional support to address housing instability, economic uncertainty, and other concerns has only grown during the pandemic, according to William Blair, Wellness Coordinator at MVLA.
Blair also noted that ELL students, particularly those who are new to our region, often require specialized support beyond basic services. That might include legal immigration support, language support, or mental health services to help address the trauma they may have experienced in coming to the U.S., as many families seek asylum due to gang violence, death threats, or political instability.
“Trying to navigate the complex web of supportive services within our County is difficult even for those who speak English as a first language, let alone for those who do not,” Blair said. “Having a dedicated case manager who can establish rapport and build trust with our students and families is truly the bridge we need to connect some of our most vulnerable students with the help they need.”
Some of the services that Contreras-Chavez will provide include connecting students and families with food, housing assistance, legal support, medical and mental health services, immigration support services such as "Know your Rights" workshops, income tax support, holiday gift support, and COVID-19 resources.
Simitian said he thinks the new program will, “help these students and their families succeed, take some pressure off hard-pressed school staffers, and free up some time and attention for other students as well. In that sense, it’s a win-win-win. We’re lucky to have a capable nonprofit in CSA and a school district that understands the power of partnership.”