West indian culture

Indian River Central School District celebrates culture and connects military families | WWTI


CALCIUM, NY (WWTI) – The Indian River Central School District continues its efforts to connect families around the world.

Indian River has the highest percentage of military families in the area due to its proximity to Fort Drum. This brings families and students from many states and countries, many of whom are bilingual.

The district’s English as a New Language program, commonly referred to as ENL, helps support these families by providing additional language services to students. The program offers classroom services as well as translators during the school day.

“We’re finally giving them more time in language services,” ENL director Kevin Kelly said. “Our ENL program is unique I think because of Fort Drum and that attracts people from all over the world which makes our ENL program bigger than most in the region.”

However, the main priority of the Indian River ENL program is to celebrate culture and community. This could be seen at Calcium Elementary School on November 4 during the district’s ENL family night.

Among the dozens of families present, many were military, including that of Jina Aponte, whose two sons are enrolled in the ENL program.

Aponte’s husband is a soldier at Fort Drum and she explained how the program made her family feel welcome after moving to the North Country last summer.

“All the teachers who help kids feel at home, you know,” she said. “And the diversity that they celebrate here for all countries is so heartwarming to me.”

That was the goal of family home evening, explained ENL teacher Laurie Gardner. She said it was the first time the event had taken place since 2015 and the turnout was impressive.

“As military people, they’re away from their families and their homes, and then adding a language barrier to that for some families can be really difficult,” Gardner explained. “So they can come here and meet if they haven’t met already and it’s really a bonding night for all the families.”

Families have also heard of Spanish translator Maria Margarita Pedrosa-Parker, who came to the United States alone when she was five and connects families with similar experiences.

“When [students] walk through this door here, when they walk in, I can speak for everyone in this school and the entire school district, that we are committed to the children,” Pedrosa-Parker explained.

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