SYL_2018_Event-300x200On Thursday, December 13th 2018, OneAmerica held an event highlighting our Speak Your Language Campaign supporting English Learners, Celebrating Bilingualism and announcing the release of our report “Celebrating the Power of Bilingualism.” The event was attended by nearly 100 supporters, including OneAmerica parent leaders and Community Language Organizers, the English Language Learner Work Group, elected officials, and educators and district administrators in our schools. If you weren’t able to attend, here’s your chance to get up to date on new developments! We welcome you to read the report, view the photos and presentation from the event, watch a special video from State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, and this message from our Deputy Director.

A Message from OneAmerica Deputy Director Roxana Norouzi:

22% of children in school are English Learners like I was as a child. They grew up in families speaking Spanish, Vietnamese, Quileute (the language spoken by Quileute Tribe), or one of over 150 languages other than English spoken in Washington schools. And yet, they often feel forced to assimilate, forced to leave behind the culture and language that defines much of who they are.

I know this experience all too well. At home, I spoke Persian with my mother and grandmother. But once I began school, I could immediately sense that even though I spoke English, speaking another language was considered strange and different. As I grew up, I was constantly negotiating my own identity in school, and was never able to be my full self. I either could be my full identity, which included my heritage and culture from home and my family, but that meant feeling like an outsider in school. Or my other choice was to leave who I was behind when I walked through the classroom doors, in order to be successful and feel accepted in school.

I don’t want students to have the experience I did. Still to this day, many students continue to receive the message of assimilation; that they will need to leave their language and culture behind to “fit in” and do well.

At OneAmerica, we believe bilingualism is a strength. It’s something that needs to be protected and supported. Our emerging bilingual students are our state’s next generation, and we at OneAmerica are there to support them every step of the way.

When we launched the Speak Your Language program in 2011, we knew that our emerging bilingual students needed more support, more acceptance. They didn’t need to assimilate; they needed a support system. Speak Your Language has done that through community awareness campaigns, community organizing, and bilingual policy advocacy.

Celebrating the Power of BIlingualism: Community Organizing and Advocacy for English Learner and Multilingual Student Success in South King County and Washington State: Demographics, Wins, and Future Policy Solutions.

2018 has been a landmark year for us. We passed a bill to expand dual language education and published a report about bilingualism in our state, how the educational system needs to change, and our advocacy wins for this year as well as list what we need to accomplish in 2019.

Read the Report Here

Next year, we are taking on new projects and you can read about those in page 34 and 35 of the report. Along with passing our 2019 bilingualism bill, we will also work with school districts to:

  1. Expand Dual Language Programs starting in Early Learning through K-12
  2. Create Community Language Learning Programs
  3. Support Indigenous Language Revitalization
  4. Develop Bilingual Educators
  5. Expand the World Language Credit Program and Seal of Biliteracy
  6. Spread the messages of our SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE campaign

Watch below to hear Superintendent Reykdal’s comments about his commitment to dual- and multi-lingual learners in our state.

We’re ready to take the next step to support our English Learners, but it takes a community to keep making change. Join us by reviewing the actions steps listed in pages 34 and 35 in the report and speaking to your legislator and school district about passing our 2019 Bilingual Bill to advance change for English learners in our state, and by encouraging your own children, neighbors and friends to keep speaking their home language!

Want to get involved in our work? Sign up for our Speak Your Language Newsletter to hear what we’re doing and what you can do to support bilingualism in Washington State. If you have any questions about our work on bilingualism, contact Nimco Bulale.