Writing in a Second Language Pays Off

JESSICA LOPEZ
El Vaquero Staff Writer

AGCC essay contest that was created as an incentive to promote writing resulted in the first scholarship offered that will recognize and reward English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

The scholarship is not an official GCC scholarship, but it is a grant in the form of a book voucher. This grant is significant because it is exclusively designed for ESL students and was created and funded by a team of students and professors, known as the English as a Second Language Student Association (ESA) club.

ESA was founded last spring. Its primary goal is to encourage ESL students to become proficient in the English language and to utilize it among their peers while creating networking support and obtaining college success ideas and information.
According to Associate Professor of ESL and ESA club adviser Linda Griffith, “the club offers social interaction, tutoring, mentoring, and an opportunity to practice English, which is so important.”

ESA President Manuel Cuellar who has played a prominent role in creating and organizing the club said, “Our purpose is to get as many people involved as possible.”

Last spring ESA organized an information booth to assist students with concerns about issues such as enrollment, adding and dropping classes, counseling, tuition aid, and transferring.

The information booth consisted of volunteers and club members who spoke different languages to accommodate foreign students.

Additionally, ESA has held fundraising events such as food and book sales.

In September, ESA had a three-day book sale. The books were donated by the faculty of the ESL department, thus most of them contained content concerning reading, writing, and grammar. The book sale raised approximately $600.

The money that was raised from the book sales will be used to fund the vouchers awarded to the winning participants of the contest.
The essay contest was sponsored by ESA and was only open to active members of the club.

Eleven people participated in the contest, which asked contestants who has had a great influence in their lives.

Four winners were selected by the judges: Susan De Santis, Richard Seltzer, and Kay Baldwin. The four winners included Chie Koiizuka, Jiao Has, Fabiola Macias, and Rasoul Samadan, who will receive their award in the spring semester.

“The scholarship money came from the students because of their ideas and the contributions they’ve put towards implementing those ideas,” said Elis Lee, credit ESL instructor and additional ESA club adviser. “I hope other students realize all the work it took in collecting books and making sales.”

ESA expressed the concerns of the club during the first ESL department meeting of the semester. Here, they proposed the idea of having a book sale and requested donations from the faculty. ESA is now a part of the department’s meeting agenda where they can continue to address issues of the club and their members.

“To keep our scholarship [vouchers], we hope to continue book sales,” said Cuellar. “This enables us to raise money and it’s a way of giving recognition for our active members and to help them develop leadership skills.”

A large number of ESL students attend GCC. According to the Director of Institutional Research, Edward Karpp, there are 1,934 students enrolled in ESL credit classes, which represents about 13 percent of the credit students enrolled in fall 2004.

Due to the interest of promoting GCC’s ESL program and the ESA club, advisers Paul Vera and Griffith arranged visits to Glendale local high schools.

Glendale and Herbert Hoover high schools were visited by ESA advisers along with members Cuellar, Artin Megerdichian, Maria Vala, and Fabiola Macias.

Students taking ESL classes at the high school level were informed about GCC’s English placement test, credit and non-credit ESL courses, tutoring, and existence the ESA club. “They [students] have a source to turn to when they get to here [GCC],” said Cuellar.

Students from high schools or other countries whose first language is not English come to college and feel too intimated to speak. “We [ESL students] are afraid to speak because of our grammar,” said student Luis Mares. The ability to have friends with similar backgrounds offers a sense of community…a community where we feel free to speak.”

The Chair of the Credit ESL Division, Young Gee, said, “It’s a proactive experience. ESA provides opportunity for [ESL] students to come together and practice their English while making friends.”

The support and guidance offered by ESA is commendable, however their ability to raise funds and distribute those funds as vouchers created the first type of scholarship/grant designed specifically for ESL students at GCC.

“They earned the money [vouchers],” said Melanie Brown, administrative assistant to the dean of student affairs. “It is not unusual for clubs to designate funds for their own members.”

“The ability for a school club to raise funds and then distribute those funds productively is wonderful,” said Yee. “ESA is moving ahead with their own agenda and making things happen.”