A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Moving on Up! empowers EMLS learners, showcases pathways to success

Sam Guzman
Many services for EMLS students aren’t offered in the evening so events like “Moving on Up” are helpful in letting students know what help they can receive at SRJC.

The Student Activity Center in Bertolini served as a space for student empowerment and an informational hub for English Multilingual Learning Students (EMLS) and their families on April 4, 2024, for “Moving on Up!” 

The event, organized and hosted by the EMLS department, showcased SRJC certificate programs and student services that can help students achieve their academic and professional goals.

More than 100 students of all ages and backgrounds filled the Student Activity Center where tables with various SRJC resources and information filled the room. Many services for EMLS aren’t offered in the evening, so events like “Moving on Up” are helpful in letting students know what help they can receive at SRJC.

“Many programs and services don’t run in the evening,” said Daniela Kingwill, EMLS faculty and Noncredit EMLS Coordinator. “We want them to have a good idea of what other programs and services are out there for them, either while they’re still taking EMLS classes or when they move on from non-credit to credit classes. So they can see that SRJC has all these programs and services to offer.”

Conchis Randazzo (left), Ben Alcantar (center) and Karla Naranjo (right), members of ESL Moves, table at the EMLS departments Moving on Up event on April 4, 2024, in the Bertolini Student Activity Center. (Sam Guzman)

Faculty and staff, including teachers and former students, gave a presentation on SRJC’s EMLS program. A former EMLS student testified about her journey and encouraged folks to pursue an education because “it’s never too late,” she said.

“I consider the ESL department my first family. They supported me and I was able to successfully complete all ESL credit courses,” said Conchis Randazzo, founder and president of ESL Moves, an SRJC club created to empower and assist EMLS students.

“This achievement opened endless opportunities for me. Empower yourself, believe in yourself; all the dreams you came with into this country are possible as long as you fight for them,” Randazzo told the crowd.

She will transfer to Sonoma State University next fall to earn her bachelor’s in sociology.

Conchis Randazzo motivates the audience to pursue their dreams because “it’s never too late.” She founded ESL Moves, an SRJC club created to empower and assist EMLS students and Espejo de Mi Alma, SRJC’s first ballet folklorico dance group. (Sam Guzman)

Former EMLS student William Garcia attended the Moving on Up event, where he helped at the Undocu · Immigrant · Dream Center table and talked to students all night. 

Garcia, a native of Guatemala, didn’t believe attending college was possible until one day during the COVID-19 pandemic when, while scrolling through Facebook, he saw an SRJC ad online that read “find your career.” It piqued his interest, and he called the number on the ad but wasn’t given a gratifying response. Rather than losing all hope, however, he tried one more time.

“My hopes faded again … [but] after being placed on hold for almost an hour, somebody answered, and I vividly remember that being Eva Barragan from the Dream Center,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t an easy process to get admitted into non-credit classes, but eventually I was, thanks to her help and the Dream Center.”

Garcia is grateful for the help from the EMLS department and teachers, the Dream Center, the High School Equivalency Program, Student Health Services and the Intercultural Center, all of which empowered him to follow his dreams and achieve academic success.

“No one should give up. Everyone will have moments where they feel like they can’t continue advancing, but there’s always a solution,” Garcia said. “Sometimes life will put the right people in your path at the right time. I believe in destiny, and we should fight for it.”

Garcia will transfer to Sacramento State in the fall to pursue a bachelor’s in nursing. He is also considering attending medical school and becoming a doctor.

William Garcia didn’t think college would be possible for him but rather than giving up he persisted and with the right help he was able to enroll in non-credit ESL classes and begin his education at Santa Rosa Junior College. (Sam Guzman)

Berhane Ghidey would normally be sweeping and mopping the halls of SRJC, but instead, he gathered information and resources to further his education and achieve his academic goals.

Originally from Eritrea, Ghidey was a professional electrician before moving to the United States. He has worked at SRJC as a custodian since the spring of 2016. Only last year did he decide to enroll in EMLS classes.

“Back home my profession was electrical contractor,” Ghidey said. “I am learning how to go to school and learning how to achieve my certificate here [at SRJC]. That’s my goal.”

Despite his age, he plans to continue pursuing his goal of obtaining an electrical union apprenticeship certificate until he achieves it. 

“I will continue, I will never stop. School doesn’t ask for age. I will continue in school until I [achieve] my diploma,” he said.

For Berhane Ghidey, education has no age limit. Woking as a custodian at SRJC since 2016, he plans to continue EMLS classes to work towards his goal of obtaining an electrical union apprenticeship certificate. (Sam Guzman)

In March 2024, the ESL department changed its name to the EMLS department to be more inclusive. The name change reflects its students’ diverse linguistic backgrounds and recognizes multilingual students’ cultural skills. SRJC now joins a growing list of other California community colleges like Bakersfield College, Fresno City College, Los Medanos College, Santa Ana College and Ventura College, that have adopted the EMLS name change.

EMLS students make up 9% of the SRJC student body. Coming from Latin American countries, Northern Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia, they stand out as the most motivated and enthusiastic learners Kingwill has met.

“What a privilege it is to be an EMLS instructor because I learned so much from my students. In my classes, I have the kindest, most generous, most interesting people,” Kingwill said. “We benefit from what ESL students bring to our classes and our school. They’re not just here taking English, they’re also sharing their values and their culture and their things that we don’t even know because we’re from different cultures.”

Daniela Kingwill finds her job as a teacher very rewarding. “I am not only teaching English, I’m also learning from my students, about their languages, cultures and about what’s happening in the world. So it’s not only rewarding to just be a teacher, but it’s also rewarding to be working with people from such a diverse community.” (Sam Guzman)
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About the Contributors
Bryan Fructuoso
Bryan Fructuoso, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Bryan Fructuoso-Zurita (He/Him/Él) is in his third semester at The Oak Leaf. He enjoys meeting new people and listening to their stories because everyone has one to tell. His passion lies in covering individuals and amplifying their stories, particularly on underrepresented groups on campus and Latinx stories. To pursue his passion further, he is working towards obtaining an associate of science degree in both digital journalism and digital filmmaking. Bryan's ultimate dream is to create your favorite television series or film one day.
Sam Guzman
Sam Guzman, Editor
Sam Guzman is in his 2nd semester at the Oak Leaf, and is currently working towards transferring to San Francisco State to major in journalism next Fall.

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    Holly VettoriApr 30, 2024 at 4:58 pm

    Reading this inspirational article reduced me to tears of joy!