A leadership class at West Fargo High School in West Fargo, ND, is focused on students helping students – including developing friendships and mutual appreciation with English-Language Learner (ELL) students.

“For the last two years, the heart of our 21st-century leadership class has been to help ELL students acclimate with our school…and for all our students and their families to share and learn about different cultures and build new relationships,” said Principal Jennifer Fremstad. “The class gets together in two-hour blocks, with integration activities ranging from games and sports to teaching one another about each other’s cultures.”

The leadership class comprises mostly juniors and seniors who partner with ELL classes across grade levels, and with students across the spectrum of English proficiency – from very little English to nearly fluent.

Periodic outreach events, with the specific goal of advancing cultural awareness and cultural pride, further establish connections. Indeed, a New Neighbors Night was a huge success with more than 700 people enjoying each other’s cuisines, a fashion show and a talent show; door prizes at the event also included donations from local businesses. 

“For New Neighbor’s Night this spring, we’re planning outdoor activities, possibly soccer, as well as indoor activities, like face painting,” Fremstad continued, also citing the importance of community partnerships. “Lutheran Social Services does placement of our families in the community, and we have a very active United Way chapter that focuses on education and literacy.

“In the fall, they do a backpack drive so that every kid has a backpack full of school supplies – nearly 7,000 backpacks were distributed throughout Fargo-Moorhead last year, with more than 50 in our high school.”

According to Fremstad, the metropolitan area has seen an increase in Bhutanese, Somali and Liberian immigrants and refugees, as well as an influx of newcomers from the Middle East.

“We know that students learn when they’re here in school,” she said. “But it’s even more important for them to see how small the world is. When they have intimate conversations with people who have experienced very different social, political and cultural climates, it enhances what we do in the classroom. It prepares them for a globally-oriented world.”

Thanks to tremendously positive feedback from students and families among refugee populations and the receiving community, the school’s integration activities are being shared and replicated at other area high schools.

For more information, contact

Dr. Jennifer Fremstad

Principal

[email protected]

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