The number of English Language Learner (ELL) students in the Grand Rapids Public School system is growing immensely. There are currently over 4,000 students at GRPS who are non-native English speakers in the process of learning the language. That's 25% of the student population. These students represent 55 different countries and 54 various languages, some even speaking multiple languages (other than English).
Many times, ELL students are facing barriers other students never have to deal with. Aside from not knowing the language or culture of the classroom, refugee students may also be dealing with trauma from war, violence, or economic ruin in their home countries. Frequently, these kids have moved multiple times throughout the school year, and lack the stability and comfort the American students have at home.
Despite the challenges they're faced with, the 5th grade ELL students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School were all smiles when I photographed them for a Rapid Growth Media shoot. Laughing and talking about their favorite school subjects, their enthusiasm was infectious. Gabriela Garcia wants to be an inventor, doctor, or a scientist while Kevin Valeramaldonado dreams of becoming a sports star, preferably soccer, or an engineer. Their stories are uniquely important and they each bring very different and diverse perspectives to the classroom.