Bilingual Community Meetings: Finding a Community at Furness High

<p>Bilingual Community Meetings flyer. Photo credits: Tiffany Lorch</p>

Bilingual Community Meetings flyer. Photo credits: Tiffany Lorch

Students and teachers at Furness High School suffered last spring when we went virtual. Many students experienced a disconnect.  Following summer break, our schools remained virtual. Most information and flyers were sent in English. However, our school is multicultural and  some students could not understand the instructions and return the necessary information in a timely manner. In order to have every student receive instructions, Mrs. Lorch (an ESOL teacher and an El Point who has been teaching at Furness since 2011) and other teachers had an idea. 

They felt that if students could "be themselves" in their own languages, they could connect, ask questions and share concerns with each other. Then an adult sponsor could help communicate those concerns back to the whole staff and answer any questions. Students and the adult sponsor would meet every Wednesday during advisory. Currently, there are eight community meetings: Chinese, Nepali, Spanish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, African Descent, Burmese/Karen/Chin, and Khmer.

I had the opportunity to interview some students on how they feel about the community meetings. Rayan Hamadouche, a junior, is a member of students of African Descent at Furness. He likes attending the meetings because it gives him the chance to talk to other students who speak the same language as he does. He mentioned that: “I am more open to talk in my community meeting than in a normal online class.”

Sujata Gurung, a senior, is a member of the Nepali community of Furness. She is always happy to attend the meetings and added “I’m very happy to talk to Nepali brothers and sisters.” She sees the members as a family. It looks like Mrs. Lorch’s dream came true because  it seems students tend to “be themselves” during these meetings.

Personally, I think that the community meeting helped in many ways. First, it gives me the opportunity to meet students who have the same background as me, which would have been very helpful two years ago when I came to Furness. Second, I am able to help my friends because I know how they feel and they are more open to talk with their classmates than teachers. I am grateful for this club because it gives me leadership skills and helps me be a more social person. My favorite part is when everyone shares facts about their culture.

For the future of the clubs, Mrs. Lorch would like the students to take full leadership of the groups and create the content and discussions. She mentioned “I think it's very important for the students to have a place to express their voices. I definitely plan to continue the practice when we return in person. And, I hope we can add other groups in the future as well.”

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