middle school english language learner students in the the Newcomer Academy program look at an insect net during a visit to the Audubon Society's Pollinator Party

Manchester School District’s summer learning programs were in full swing during the month of July. Over the last week, we’ve been highlighting our programs, which include several new offerings. Today, we’re focusing on the Newcomer Academy program.

MANCHESTER – The Newcomer Academy, which serves Manchester School District’s English Language Learner population, returned this summer after being on hiatus for several years. 

The Newcomer Academy was restarted based on feedback from families, as well as staff who took part in an advisory committee. Tina Proulx, the District’s middle school curriculum director, helped bring back the program. A former English Language Learner teacher, she said the program serves a critical need for these students. 

“Newcomer Academies are welcoming and specialized programs that support students linguistically, academically and socially-emotionally as they transition to schooling in a new country,” Proulx said. “These students have accelerated language development and enriched their academic vocabulary, as well as participated in field trips, activities and experiences to help our newest students with both transition and integration into our community and schools.”  

The four-week program serves students across all grade levels, with 90 taking part on a regular basis. Students weren’t just spending the time at school, either – groups visited the Seacoast Science Center, Palace Theater and Currier Museum, but also explored the neighborhoods around the city. Family engagement was also a priority, with frequent communication and weekly home visits from District staff. On the day we visited the high school program, students were working in groups at stations on projects based on their experiences on trips around the community. Carmel Collins, an English Language Learner teacher at Central High School, has helped run the high school site, and said that academically, they’ve worked a lot on creative writing. 

“That is a little more challenging, because they’re used to prescriptive ‘fill-in-this’ questions,” Collins said. “We’ve tried to engage in more creative writing, where they need to really focus on themselves.”

Collins said socialization is a huge focus as well, with lots of interaction, collaboration and helping each other. She said the program has a major impact on the students.

“I would say it's really built up that confidence and their self esteem in a big way,” Collins said. “They've connected socially, which is so important for you. You've got to feel accepted in your community, and comfortable enough to take those academic risks.”

Like many of the District’s summer learning programs, the Newcomer Academy drew to a close on July 28, but the students will be able to bring back the work they’ve done this summer – academically and socio-emotionally – to the classroom in September.