For five weeks of the summer, the Center offers New Arrivals, a program for children who are English language learners. Approximately 80 refugee and immigrant children in preschool, elementary school, and middle school attend the program to prevent the summer slip. Children explore literature, experiment with science, adventure into the community, and more—all to learn, practice, and maintain English language skills. In 2016, 93 children represented 11 nations, speaking 9 different languages.
The Program’s History
Interestingly, New Arrivals stems from humble beginnings. In 1989, Mrs. B (Mary Ann Blaisdell) was a teacher at Lawrence Barnes Elementary School. When students returned in the fall, Mrs. B noticed that many immigrant and refugee children had regressed in English language skills. The “summer slip” was detrimental; the school was difficult and children were falling behind. Mrs. B wanted to help the newly arrived children by creating a summer program for immigrants and refugees that was engaging and academic.
That summer, Mrs. B recruited fellow teachers and SHCC board members to help teach summer school. Mrs. B accessed space at the Center for the program. On hot summer mornings, Mrs. B and her loyal crew of recruits were at the SHCC using literature, social studies, art, and science to further and maintain English language skills.
With no funding and limited resources, the instructors relied on creativity. Leftovers from the school year became summer staples and personal funds were used for trips. Mrs. B insisted that classroom lessons were real. Thus, everyone would learn how to read a Burlington map, figure the bus route to the Fletcher Free Library, and register for his or her own library card. Real, life-skill lessons are still a key component of the program.
Over the years, “Mrs. B’s Summer School” has matured into a formalized, respected program,
New Arrivals. New Arrivals was the first program of its kind in the state of Vermont! Because of its success, New Arrivals is used as a model for similar programs throughout Chittenden County.