Grants & Scholarships

Turning language barriers into opportunities

We are working with our grantee partners on efforts in economic security, education, and health that are aimed at eliminating inequality and racial disparities. Here is one grantee's story.

Much of the news about public education this past year has focused on the impact of COVID on schools and learning. One group of students who face additional challenges, whether they’re in school or learning remotely, are multilingual learners/English learners (MLL/EL).

In its 2020 Factbook, Rhode Island Kids Count indicated that for the 2018-19 academic year, 29% of the Providence School District’s students were MLL/EL students*. To help these students reach their full potential, the Rhode Island Department of Education, Providence Public School Department, and local colleges and universities — with funding support from the Rhode Island Foundation — have partnered to provide MLL/EL certification for up to 125 Providence teachers. This effort aligns well with both our Educational Success strategic initiative and recent long-term planning efforts that focus on educational equity.

Multi language learners in Providence Public Schools

Several of the teachers in the program shared their insights on the impact the program is having on them, on their teaching, and — most importantly — on their students.

Lynn Tramonti

Lynn Tramonti has taught in the Providence Public Schools since 2001 and is currently a fourth grade teacher at the Providence Virtual Learning Academy. Fourteen of her 36 students (39%) are MLLs. She explains, “I am learning a great deal and feel that I am becoming a better teacher. I make a conscious effort to know as much as I can about my students' cultures and backgrounds. It has impacted my students in a positive way because I am employing strategies in the classroom that I have learned. I must meet my students where they currently are and build up from there.”

Carol Pagan

Carol Pagan, currently in her twenty-first year of teaching in Providence, is a second grade teacher at Alfred Lima Elementary School. As a dual language teacher, all her students are MLLs. She shares, “The certification program has strengthened me both as a teacher and advocate of MLL students. I have learned and been empowered as a result of my participation in the ESL certification program. What I am able to offer my students are objectives and lessons that are specifically created with their language needs in mind.”

Leonard J. Ellis

Leonard J. Ellis has taught in the Providence Public Schools for 15 years and is a fourth grade teacher at Young Woods Elementary School. Forty-five percent of his students are MLLs. He says, “This program has opened my eyes to the struggles that emergent bilingual students face on a daily basis. This program has helped change who I am not only as an educator, but as a person. Emergent bilinguals need to be taught with empathy and compassion in a nurturing learning environment. I have taken on a more 'openminded' approach and allow the flexibility to use language to maximize the learning experience.”

* Rhode Island Kids Count defines MLL/EL as “the percentage of all public school children (preschool through grade 12) who are receiving English Learner services in Rhode Island public schools” and notes that these students nationally, and in Rhode Island, have lower rates of math and reading achievement than non-MLL/EL students.