Overcoming Language Barriers to Succeed in Academics and Beyond

Alumni Spotlight, News
Esperanza Academy Charter School’s student population is 98% Hispanic. Our school’s vibrant atmosphere reflects a variety of countries, cultures, and heritages. Many of our staff and students are bilingual, and we are passionate about meeting students where they are on their language journey. A student’s first language should never hinder their success. Our English Language Department has a variety of English as a Second Language classes, and we also have English Language Paraprofessionals whose sole role is to help those students who need extra support with English in their classes, homework, tests, etc. July Castro is one of our alumni who received such services.
She and her family immigrated into the United States from Colombia when she was sixteen years old. Beginning a new high school is challenging enough without culture shock and language barriers! Read our interview with Castro about her time at Esperanza:
  1. What was it like learning English while in high school? Was Esperanza (Academy and College) supportive to you? In what way did they support you?

Learning English while in high school was challenging. There were moments when I felt I didn’t belong to certain classes because I didn’t understand what the teachers and my classmates were discussing, but I must say that Esperanza staff was always supportive. The counselors and teachers were always making sure that we were doing good and that we were getting the support we needed to complete each class successfully.

2. Were you born in the United States? What is your family heritage?

I was born and raised in Colombia. My family moved to the United States when I was sixteen years old. It was really difficult because in Colombia, the last grade is eleventh grade, and we don’t have twelfth grade. So when we moved, I had just graduated from high school, but because I was only 16 years old, I didn’t know English and I also needed the credits to go to college. I did eleventh grade again and then twelfth.

3. Where did you get your bachelors degree from?

Esperanza College of Eastern University. I also just finished a Post Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate from the Community College of Philadelphia.

4. How did Esperanza Academy prepare you for College and your career? Any special staff shout-outs?

Both Esperanza Academy and College were very supportive during that difficult transition. I believe I would not have been able to make it without their support. Since

day one to graduation, Esperanza staff guided me and the rest of my classmates that were in the same situation. Special shout outs to Ms. Baker, who unfortunately has passed away, and Mr. Garcia.

Being able to take college classes in Spanish while also learning English was a great opportunity. After I graduated, I took an English class for six months. It was required before I could be enrolled in college. After the English course was completed, I was able to start taking college classes.

5. What advice would you give to students who are learning English as a Second Language right now at Esperanza Academy? What advice would you give to students about what they should do after high school?

Do not give up, it can be really hard and frustrating, but it will be worth it. For students who are graduating soon, and don’t know English, do not hesitate to ask for help. There are many people out there that want you to succeed.

6. What do you enjoy about working in Finance?

I enjoy the fact that it’s challenging and there is always something new to learn. I have been working at the company for about six years, and I learn something new every day. I really enjoy learning.

7. Anything else that you would like to add? About people who have inspired you?

My biggest inspiration are my parents, they never stopped believing in me. They encouraged me to go to college and thanks to that encouragement I have become a better person.

Castro is now working as a Financial Reporting Analyst. She has been employed at AmeriHealth Caritas for 6 years now in the Finance Department. Thank you July for sharing your story with us!

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