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The Rockbridge Community Health Foundation has awarded a $25,000 grant to the W&L student organization to pilot a summer program in 2022.

ESOL is a completely student-run group that aims to be a resource for those in Rockbridge County who struggle with English. The organization’s free services help non-native English speakers improve their language skills and feel more comfortable in the community.

The grant will support implementing a new, community-based summer program for K-12 youth who would otherwise have limited access to curricular opportunities outside of the school year.

The ESOL summer program was formulated in response to the needs expressed by local parents who wanted their children to have access to structured days, academic enrichment and enhanced mentoring in the summer months. Initial plans were drafted by ESOL’s student and faculty leaders during the 2020-21 academic year.

“The program’s primary objectives are to bolster students’ language, literacy and critical thinking skills, nurture students’ creative interests, and encourage an active lifestyle,” said Ellen Mayock, the Ernest Williams II Professor of Romance Languages at W&L and faculty advisor for ESOL.

A cohort of two ESOL faculty co-advisers, six to eight undergraduate counselors from W&L and two Rockbridge High School junior counselors will come together in June 2022 to host 15-20 students in the four-week pilot program.

This summer, with support from the university’s Office of Community-Based Learning, ESOL hired two summer interns, Andrea Rojas ’23 and Elizabeth González Avalos ’24, who worked with Mayock and Jayne Reino, a visiting professor of Romance Languages, to plan an integrative, multi-faceted program.

“For more than 20 years, W&L’s ESOL Program has collaborated with many schools and community agencies, and the Rockbridge Community Health Foundation-Carilion Rockbridge Community Hospital grant means the world to ESOL,” said Mayock. “The award recognizes both ESOL’s profound connections with community members and community partners and its mission to facilitate and enhance communication and education in our local area. ESOL members look forward to deepening these connections with students, their families and many community partners through the pilot summer program in 2022.”