Osman moved to the US from Somalia with his parents when he was in the 6th grade. He remembers that when he got here, he felt like he was “trapped in outer space” because he had no way to communicate with people.
Osman couldn’t speak English, and his parents couldn’t speak English either.
On the heels of winning a new education funding formula in New York, which provided high-needs school districts with fair funding, in May 2007, Citizen Action volunteers collected surveys from over 270 parents in Buffalo. The surveys asked parents about how the new money coming into the school district should be spent.
One of the priorities identified by the parents was enhanced English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, both after-school for the district’s children and on Saturdays for parents.
The process to win ESL in Buffalo wasn’t easy. There was resistance from the district and the school board. Not only did the district respond that it wasn’t their job to educate parents, but they were also concerned about taking after-school time, asking “when would they be able to shoot basketballs?”
But, Citizen Action volunteers continued to push, organizing parents to attend school board meetings and building pressure on the district.
In January 2008, we won our first victory, with an enhanced ESL after-school program – a 6-month trial. The response was overwhelming, with over 80 participants enrolled.
By March 2008, the first Saturday Academy for parents was introduced, which also attracted more than 80 attendees.
He recalled that, “I remember being at a traffic light and not knowing whether to go or stop because I didn’t know how to read the traffic light, so all I could do was watch what other people did and follow them.”
Now, because of the ESL programs, Osman is almost fluent in English. With his new communication skills, this semester, Osman was chosen to represent the Somali-Bantu Community in Buffalo as their Youth Leader.
As a senior at Grover Cleveland High School in Buffalo, he is excited about starting college next year.
Osman is just one of dozens of success stories coming out of Buffalo’s new ESL program.
Without the work of Citizen Action’s leaders and dedicated volunteers, ESL would still just be a dream for the children of Buffalo. Now, their dream has become reality.
These invaluable successes are the reason that you need to help us continue our fight. We can’t do it without you.
Click here to chip in $20.10 right now to make sure we can keep working for change next year.