Bridges To Success Celebrates Success And Expands To Bridge Gaps For ELL Students

Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Professionals representing educational and nonprofit organizations, serving the cradle to career pipeline for the English Language Learner (ELL) community, gathered last month at Chattanooga State Community College to discuss the challenges immigrants in Hamilton County face on their path to citizenship and career development. During the evening’s program, Chattanooga State announced progress from the inaugural year of its Bridges to Success 2.0 program, an early postsecondary initiative providing ELL high school juniors a career pathway.

“BTS 2.0 is based on the successful model of Bridges to Success 1.0, which is a partnership with the City of Chattanooga and Chattanooga State to provide pathways to education and workforce development for our local immigrant community,” says Gladys Pienda-Loher, director of International Community Outreach at Chattanooga State.  "During the event, we learned Hispanic students account for roughly 10 percent of the student body in Hamilton County, with close to six percent having limited English proficiency. Based on achievement data from the TN State Report Card, ELL high school students are under-served in Tennessee and Hamilton County. For example: in high school English, only 5.5% of ELL students in our county scored proficient or advanced in the 2016 Tennessee Department of Education Report Card.

"It is not surprising that these early opportunity gaps create barriers for Hispanics in areas of postsecondary access and completion. Nearly half of the 11.2 percent of residents 25 years of age or older who fall into the category labeled 'Less than High School' are Hispanic residents. By race, Hispanic residents have the lowest combined percentage for postsecondary achievements in Hamilton County and fall a full percentage point behind Blacks and American Indians for residents attaining a 'bachelor’s degree or higher.'

"BTS 2.0 brings access and opportunity for high school students of color, specifically within the ELL community.  As part of the expansion of Bridges to Success, Chattanooga State is partnering with HCDE, and specifically Howard School, to create a career pathway for a cohort of 17 ELL students who are taking high school and college classes simultaneously. After two years, these students will have earned both their high school diploma and a postsecondary credential as a Computer Support Technician."

Zac Brown, HCDE director of Opportunity Schools, was in attendance for the celebration and captured the spirit of the evening’s discussion, “We want all of our students to walk across the stage at graduation. Programs like Bridges to Success give students hope that they will be able to overcome challenges.”

Hamilton County schools have seen a significant growth in Hispanic and English Learner populations, directly mirroring the growth across the state.

“When I think about the role in which I have the privilege of serving, the one thing that I can do is to make sure that schools, leaders and teachers have the resources necessary to ensure that our ELL community as a whole are supported.,” stated Dr. Bryan Johnson, Hamilton County Department of Education superintendent. “We need to be very intentional about supporting our ELL population as it continues to grow in Hamilton County.”

The work of Hamilton County schools, Chattanooga State and its partners in the Bridges to Success program go hand-in-hand with the goals of other efforts being done across the state with Drive to 55 and locally with Chattanooga 2.0.

"Chattanooga State Community College has created an innovative hybrid program for English Learners to have increased access to early postsecondary opportunities. With support from key leaders and partnerships, Bridges to Success will play a critical role in bridging the opportunity and achievement gaps that ELL students face in Hamilton County and, in return, increase economic stability for the entire community," officials said.

“One of our 2.0 goals is to double the number of graduates. That's all students, not just native speakers of English," said Chattanooga 2.0 Executive Director Jared Bigham. “If we're going to say all, then all means all.”

Lookout Valley Elementary Finally Get Gym

Lookout Valley Elementary School is finally getting a gym. The County School Board on Thursday night approved a bid of $994,000 by KF Construction of Knoxville. The small gym will also be usable for volleyball, PE classes and other uses, Justin Witt of the county schools said. He said it is similar to ones built earlier at Woodmore Elementary and Thrasher Elementary. ... (click for more)

"Stock Their Lockers: Providing School Supplies For Kids In Need" Program Kicks Off Monday

The Samaritan Center’s Stock Their Lockers, a program that allows students kindergarten through 12th grade to receive a backpack-full of school supplies, will kick off Monday with a special visit from Stewart Payne and his Readmobile from Read 20.   Mr. Payne will spend time reading to children in the Center’s Farrow Community Corner, now transformed into a Dr. Seuss-themed ... (click for more)

Toned-Down UnifiEd PAC Effort Funds Coppinger, Fairbanks, Smedley, Sharpe, Gorman, Mackey

The UnifiEd PAC, which helped engineer a surprise County Commission election victory in May for political newcomer Katherlyn Geter, is not making public endorsements in the Aug. 2 election, but is putting its money behind a small slate of candidates. The financial disclosures for UnifiEd show the group strongly backing County Mayor Jim Coppinger over Democratic opponent Aloyse ... (click for more)

Juvenile Girl Who Was Shot On Doolittle Street Early Sunday Morning Has Critical Injuries

A juvenile girl who was shot early Sunday morning on Doolittle Street was in critical condition. Chattanooga Police responded at approximately 12:55 a.m. on to a person shot on the 2500 block of Doolittle Street.   Police were able to make contact with the victim at a local hospital where she was suffering from a critical, but non-life threatening gunshot wound. The ... (click for more)

Just Recuse Yourself

Pam Fleenor, have you ever heard the terms “conflict of interest” or “appearance of impropriety”? It’s a foregone conclusion that Robin Smith will be victorious in Chancellor Fleenor’s courtroom. Here’s another term you may want to re-examine, recuse yourself.   Rusty Munger (click for more)

Don't Let UnifiEd Take District 6

The UnifiEd APEX organization is working to remove Commissioner Joe Graham and has their poster candidate running in opposition to Michael Henry for School Board.   Please get the facts before you vote in the District 6 county races and reject the UnifiEd APEX candidates.   Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham and Michael Henry, School Board candidate District ... (click for more)