Club Supports International Students

Senior+Ran+Duan+formed+the+International+Students+Club+to+help+newcomer+students+in+Beachwood+and+beyond.

Sanket Makkar

Senior Ran Duan formed the International Students Club to help newcomer students in Beachwood and beyond.

The International Students Club was formed last year by senior Ran Duan in order to provide English learning help and a caring community for international students and English Language Learners (ELLs).

According to Duan, many international students struggle with English to such a degree that daily life in America becomes difficult. Language barriers prevent friendship, understanding of content in school and even social interaction in daily life. Duan recalls her own difficulties when she moved here from China as a middle school student.

“I came here in 7th grade and I struggled a lot,” she said. “I couldn’t really make friends in my first year and it was also mentally straining… Some students thrive in their home country and then come here and their grade suddenly drops to half. It was really hard both mentally and socially.” 

Duan formed the club during the COVID-19 pandemic, and although she reached out to  both BHS and BMS students, it was challenging to recruit. Despite this, she persevered to make the club a reality, and  eventually her efforts bore fruit. At the end of the year she had accumulated a set of helpful English learning tools for club members.

This year, Duan’ club is finally in-person, and she has big plans for what’s next. First, she plans to try to increase club membership by getting the word out about her club, both at BMS and BHS. 

I came here in 7th grade and I struggled a lot. I couldn’t really make friends in my first year and it was also mentally straining… Some students thrive in their home country and then come here and their grade suddenly drops to half. It was really hard both mentally and socially.”

— Senior Ran Duan

She also hopes to help ELL students beyond the Beachwood school district. 

In an email, Duan recounted the experiences of a former club member who recently moved to Texas.

At the beginning of this school year, she texted us and said her new school doesn’t offer ESL classes, so sometimes, she doesn’t know who to reach out to when she needs help on schoolwork or questions in general,” Duan wrote. “She said she is scared of going to teachers’ office hours because she doesn’t speak fluent English.

Although ELL classes are a lifeline for many, newcomer students tend to move between states due to the nature of their parents’ jobs, and not all districts provide adequate services. 

Duan plans to create a website on which to post her English learning tools to students who move away from Beachwood regardless of where they live. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump-era immigration restrictions, Beachwood has 14 ELL students in grades 6-12. 

In the 2019-2020 school year, however, Beachwood provided ELL classes and resources for up to 28 students in those grades. With first languages ranging from Arabic to Spanish, Russian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese, many of these students rely on ELL classes to get through their daily lives. 

I think [International Students] Club embodies many community values. Sharing experiences, celebrating culture, lending a helping hand. The students are there for each other and have fun together while giving support.”

— BMS ELL teacher Dana Stapleton

Junior Cloris Feng, who arrived just this summer from China, shares Duan’s excitement about the club. Feng believes this club has the potential to help international students become more heard and more socially involved. 

Feng admits that she has struggled with challenging classes in the past, and help like that provided by the club might have benefitted her at that time.

“If someone could help me with my [government class] that would help me, and for those international students who are new to the school and not so good at English…  that would be a good opportunity,” she said.

Middle school ELL teacher Dana Stapleton, who advises the club, shares Feng’s excitement. Stapleton was enthusiastic about getting the club on its feet this year. Despite the challenges last year, Stapleton is excited about Duan’s plans to go digital. In an email, she wrote that all of her BMS ELL students could benefit from the club.

“Some students would benefit from practicing speaking English in the social setting,” she wrote. “While more advanced students would benefit from acting as mentors and learning leadership skills. It is also nice for the BMS students to meet high school students who are good role models.” 

“I think [International Students] Club embodies many community values,” she continued. “Sharing experiences, celebrating culture, lending a helping hand. The students are there for each other and have fun together while giving support.”

Home languages other than English spoken by Beachwood students in grades 6-12. Data provided by Beachwood Schools.

 

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