The instructions from her teacher are loud and clear, but Dulce Maria doesn’t understand them.
Unlike her fellow fifth grade classmates, in English, she reads at a kindergarten level.
That’s why Christine Latona and the teachers at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in Gravesend, Brooklyn, even those who don’t have Dulce Maria in class, are rallying around her, making sure she gets all the benefits of a Catholic education.
“It’s allowing her to get the education she needs, it’s enabling her to be bilingual in a predominantly English speaking school and it’s giving her the confidence that she’ll need later on in life to say look what I was able to accomplish and learn by coming to a Catholic school,” Latona said.
She uses iReady, it’a a program used to determine students’ needs, track their progress and personalize their learning. For Dulce Maria, the school is using it in two languages.
“I like school but the problem is I still can’t speak English well. I’m trying my best because I know they’re trying to help me so I try to pay attention especially to any feedback that give me,” said Dulce Maria.
Dulce’s been at Our Lady of Grace since she arrived in New York two months ago. She came with her father from Colombia, they crossed the southern border on foot.
“In Colombia there are a lot of robberies and incidents caused by some very bad people, we were afraid to go out with jewelry or anything of value and it gave people in the city a feeling of insecurity, it’s not safe,” she said.
Stephanie Campanella is the school’s DeSales Technology Institute coach, she set Dulce Maria up on Duo Lingo, meeting her right where she is so she can learn English at her own pace.
“We want to have our doors open to anyone who comes in to have a great Catholic education and not just have a safe place but to learn and thrive in whatever environment they’re in and we work collaboratively to make sure that happens,” she said.
With support from her teachers, her new friends and Our Lady of Grace’s technology, not just progress but success is possible for Dulce Maria. It might take time, but for now – it clicks.