From the beginning of my freshman year at Robert E. Lee High School until now, my final year of high school at John R. Lewis High School, I have seen many changes take place. When I came to the old Lee, it was still a great school, with excellent communication between students and staff, safety, opportunities to meet new people through different classes and academies… a great environment overall. As a graduating senior, I would like to thank the staff members and students who helped guide me and my classmates as we arrived at school as new English speakers.
When students who are still learning English arrive at Lewis High School, they are helped by ESOL Department Chair Molly Paolicelli, who works with students to make sure they are in the correct classes and receiving the support they need.
Paolicelli is a warrior who has been fighting for students’ dreams by providing services to help English learners. In her years at Lewis, she has learned from the students she has supported. “When you come from a different country, life will be difficult, but I learned from my ESOL students that there are no barriers to reach your destiny,” Paolicelli said.
As a former student of ESOL English courses for the last three years, I can say that Lewis has always been the most beneficial and valuable school because it helped me achieve my goals. It has helped me increase my skills in English grammar and helped me master a second language.
Lewis students play a role in the community, through sports involvement, academy participation, and simply through the help they provide new students trying to find their classes.
My friends and classmates, seniors Katerin Maldonado Flores and Samir Reyes, serve the Lewis community as student athletes. Both of them play soccer but more importantly, they provide care and attention to their classmates. They like to help when others are struggling.
Reyes encourages his Lewis classmates to pay attention in class, be persistent, and be respectful of teachers. “I believe that students should have more respect for their teachers and classmates,” Reyes said.
Having people like my classmates has been a blessing because students nowadays need advice from their peers to continue doing what is right in life.
Cafeteria staff member Ms. Blanca Flores is a great woman who I met in my sophomore year. Blanca has been working at Lewis for almost six years, providing students and staff with politeness and kindness while serving us breakfast and lunch.
ESOL teacher Lisa Willson is a helper of students in her English Language Development classes. She helps her students every year complete the ESOL curriculum and advance into general education classes. She has also been my advisory teacher for my high school years. Her warm personality makes their students trust in her by coming to her advisory to share and celebrate life stories, parties, and feelings.
Assistant Principal Kim Harrison and counselor Marisa Meiser, part of the administrative and counseling staff, also have helped me and my classmates. They work hard to help students with their educational needs.
Spanish teacher Erik Giblin is a disciplined and a respectful teacher. He has been helping Spanish-speaking students reach their goals, and he also encourages students to challenge themselves and prepare for college by taking difficult IB Spanish courses. “I help my community because I know where I come from, and I am not ashamed to tell others where I grew up,” Giblin said.
The ability to take IB classes in our native language has been a major benefit that other Spanish speakers and I have had at Lewis. After two years in IB Spanish, we take a final exam to get a certificate. I am also proud of my classmates who take this class because it is a challenging course for so many students.
Lewis is a community of trust because whether you are a fluent speaker of English or someone who has recently arrived in the US, Lewis staff make sure you are on the right path. If you are not on the right path, the entire community will make sure you are.
The community of Lewis is a happy place that makes sure you feel special and proud. When I think back about all the individual students and staff members who have helped me and my classmates during high school, I feel happy that we spent this time together. Spanish-speaking students who graduate from Lewis High School are proud to say that without their teachers and classmates, they wouldn’t be in this position of pride.