With the bilingual education model, students are encouraged to develop their home language, as well as English. Burner learned, through her research during the Summer Scholars program last year, that the more a school valued the home culture and language in their programs, the better the students did. “The idea that you’re not just reading American and British literature, but also literature from different cultures, makes students feel more valued,” Burner says.
Last year, Burner’s Summer Scholar project included interviewing teachers and local bilingual program directors to see what models were used. COVID-19 prevented Burner from interviewing students in schools this year, so she interviewed people from the Pennsylvania Department of Education who worked in the bilingual section. “I wanted to know how these legislators have seen the models change since they’ve been here.” She also interviewed friends she had made during her time studying abroad. “Some of my friends learned English in a different country. I wanted to see how their bilingual models compared to those here.”
She learned that the focal bilingual model was best, but not always possible, especially in schools where up to 40 different languages are spoken, and not enough qualified teachers were available. But Burner is not deterred. “I would love to teach ESL,” she says. “And I would try to get my classes as close as I could to the bilingual model. It would be great to work at a school with a full bilingual program.”
Creating a Community Partnership for Writing Services
Gabriella Bamford ’22 is also doing a Summer Scholars project with a focus on Philadelphia area high school students.
“I’m a double major in English and communications,” she says. “So I am very passionate about people learning to write well.” Under the mentorship of Jenny Spinner Ph.D., an English professor, and director of the Writing Center at St. Joe’s, Bamford is focusing her project on using the St. Joe’s Writing Center to benefit underprivileged high schoolers by helping them improve their writing skills, particularly when it comes to writing college admissions essays.
“When I was a senior in high school, I came to an open house at St. Joe’s where I worked one-on-one with a Writing Center tutor on my admissions essay,” Bamford says. “It was a great resource that helped me focus and find a clear direction. I also understand that I went to a well-funded public high school that had counselors who specifically helped us with college applications. I had the resources I needed.” Bamford notes that the numbers of students in inner city schools who go to college are significantly less than students in suburban schools, and that many Philadelphia high schools don’t have the funding for college and essay tutors.
“As writing tutors, we’re trained to do the same college writing as admissions tutors do,” Bamford says. “So why not take our services out into the community?”
“The Writing Center at St. Joe’s has long been interested in community partnerships,” Spinner adds.
Bamford has spent the summer researching different community writing and engagement centers. COVID-19 has added another layer to her work. “I have also been researching how to be effective online tutors,” she says. She is working with the admission office to structure a plan and set up presentations for high school students who need help with their college essays.
“Once things are solidified with our community partners, this will be a very good and beneficial thing,” Bamford says. “If I can make the college admissions process a little fairer, or give a prospective student a boost of confidence, I think that’s a great way to give back to the community.”