Skip to main content

West Jordan Journal

WJHS aims to be the go-to resource for multilingual families

May 08, 2023 03:07PM ● By Jet Burnham

West Jordan High School’s People of the Pacific club performs for Multicultural Night. (Photo by Terisa Clegg)

The members of the West Jordan High School English Language Development Task Force want West Jordan High School to be the go-to resource for newcomer, migrant, refugee and multilingual students and their families.

“What I'm hoping for, as the end goal of the task force, is that when a new family moves in, they will be told, ‘West Jordan High School is going to take care of you,’” task force lead April Winegar said.

WJHS’s student body is 43% diverse population, the largest amount of any school in the district. The task force, as expressed in their mission statement, works to “find ways to help multilingual learners be and feel visible, valued, safe, celebrated, included and supported so they will succeed at West Jordan High School and beyond.”

Over the past five years, the ELD Task Force has implemented programs that support multilingual students' educational needs, including bilingual peer tutoring, the Diploma Now credit recovery program, and their social needs, with Latinos in Action, Black Student Union and People of the Pacific student organizations.

Their programs also support families to ease the transition for newcomers and connect them to community resources. WJHS hosts evening English classes twice a week through Unity in the CommUnity, which also offers citizenship classes for adults and bilingual math tutoring for students.

More programs are continually being dreamed up and developed by task force subcommittees and supported by school staff and administrators, many of whom are ESL-endorsed.

“Everything evolves as we get more kids and as it becomes more clear what the needs are,” Winegar said. “It's definitely a collective group effort. Everyone cares about these kids and works really hard.”

One focus of the task force this year has been ensuring all school communication is equitable and accessible to non-English speakers, both students and their parents, by providing translated materials and an on-staff translator.

“It's important that parents have access to all the information so that they can parent,” Winegar said. “If you want to guide your child and encourage them to take on new chances, but everything is given to you in a language you don't understand, you might not know about the opportunities that are available. So we want to make sure that parents have the ability to parent.”

WJHS counselor Helen Brown said schools need parents of multilingual students to be more involved.

“In all of our school decision making groups, we really need their feedback, to know what we can do to better meet their needs,” Brown said.

She said oftentimes students and their parents are unaware of how the Utah school system works or what resources are available for credit recovery or college scholarships.

As a member of the ELD Task Force, Brown helped organize JagConnect Multicultural Night, held March 23, to spread the word about helpful school and community resources for multilingual families. Representatives from WJHS, the public library, vocational rehab and community organizations such as Unity in the CommUnity, shared information about scholarships, medical and mental health resources, legal services and classes on parenting, citizenship and English. Free vision screenings and vaccinations were provided on-site.

“We just tried to come up with all these resources to help these families that are struggling and try and make their lives a little bit easier, which is what it really comes down to,” Brown said. 

It was also an opportunity to celebrate diversity, with cultural dances and artwork shared by students from West Jordan High, West Jordan Middle, and Heartland and Majestic Elementary Schools.

WJHS Principal Jim Birch provided pizza, and the Tacos El Toro Roco food truck was on location.

Latinos in Action students provided Spanish translation for the hundreds of community members who attended the event.

“It really brought the community together,” Brown said. “We wanted our communities to come together and build that rapport and that camaraderie and it definitely did that. We’ll move forward and do it every year, and hopefully, as it builds and grows, we'll have more and more participation from the community.” λ