Program makes difference in local student success.

Many youngsters in Garden City USD 457 need English as a Second Language (ESL) to keep up in school.

ESL is vital in a part of the state with a significant immigrant population and youngsters who enter the school district without the ability to speak English.

With that in mind, it wasn't a surprise to learn local educators and students continue to set an example for others when it comes to educational achievement in a diverse community that's a melting pot of cultures.

An ESL reading class at Garden City High School recently was named a national winner in the 2012 Achieve 3000 "Read to Succeed" contest.

In accomplishing the impressive feat, students in the sixth-hour English Second Language Level 1 Reading class outperformed students from across the nation in an intense regimen of reading articles, answering comprehension questions and sharing opinions.

Students who hail from such foreign lands as Thailand, Honduras and Mexico participated in the local effort. They recalled their challenges in the classroom, and how they managed to succeed thanks to their own hard work and effective guidance from their teacher, Heather Kneeland.

The Achieve 3000 program is designed to provide extra support for English language learners who need to do double work becoming proficient in English while also meeting end-of-course and graduation requirements.

It's not an easy path, and wrong perceptions sometimes get in the way of the effort.

Unfortunately, ESL too often is misunderstood by some engaged in ongoing immigration debate who insist all immigrant youngsters and adults must speak English only and the sooner the better.

While newcomers should indeed strive to learn and speak English, the fact is that youngsters need schooling in their native language to grasp educational concepts as they learn English. ESL helps bridge that gap.

Many youngsters of all ages depend on ESL to build a solid educational foundation that will help them succeed in school. Kudos to students and staff at GCHS for proving once again how Garden City continues to set an example in effective ways to help those new to the area assimilate.