Wellstone International High School: English Language Learners

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Going past Roosevelt High School, you’ve no doubt seen the green-and-white Wellstone International High School sign in the southwest corner of the building. You’ve probably noticed the wooden pole with a lot of writing on it next to the sign. What is Wellstone? you may have wondered.  

Wellstone is an accredited Minneapolis High School housed in the Roosevelt High School building. [(Actually, there are three schools in the building: Roosevelt, Wellstone, and the Teenage Pregnancy and Parenting Program (TAPPP).] Wellstone serves immigrant students ages 15 to 21 who speak little or no English or those who have had a disrupted formal education. Students can spend their entire high school experience at the school. Approximately 130 students currently attend Wellstone. Daniel Hertz, Wellstone counselor, estimates that the student population is 45% Latino, 45% Somalian and Oromo, and 10% Asian or other. Many of the students are refugees from worn-torn areas of the world.  

The school has existed since 2001. Originally called the International Center for Accelerated Language Learning, it was located in the Lehmann building on W. Lake Street. It was renamed Wellstone International High School in 2003, in honor of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. When the district closed the Lehmann building in 2008, Wellstone International moved into the Roosevelt High School building.  

Meet Wellstone Graduate Phuoc Huynh  Phuoc Huynh is a 2010 graduate of Wellstone International High School. She was valedictorian of her class, a National Honor Society inductee, a member of the student council, and a peer mediator. The recipient of four college scholarships, Phuoc is currently enrolled at the University of Minnesota and hopes to pursue a career in business. Phuoc’s achievements are extraordinary considering that she did not know a word of English when she arrived in the United States from Vietnam in 2007. She immigrated with her mother and father and an older sister. Phuoc’s father had supported the United States during the Vietnam War, and the family suffered many hardships after the communist takeover. Phuoc struggled in a traditional Minneapolis high school before coming to Wellstone. In addition to the intensive English language instruction she received, Phuoc benefited from friendships with other students who were learning a new language and a new culture. “Wellstone is like a family,” she says.

The official entrance to Wellstone is at the south end of the building. The school occupies nine classrooms on the second and third floors. Wellstone has its own main office (room 301), its own principal (Michael Bradley), and a staff of 20. It uses Roosevelt’s auditorium and cafeteria. The gym is available to students after school hours.  

Wellstone students start the school day at the same time as Roosevelt students, but they stay an hour longer. They take both ELL (English language learner) classes and content-area classes (math, science, and social studies) throughout the day. Because of language and cultural differences, Wellstone students are allowed to take longer than the traditional four years to earn their high school diploma.  

 

Wellstone is looking for people from the community to assist students in becoming more fluent in English. You can help by volunteering to be an in-class tutor or after-school tutor. Coaches and advisors for after-school sports and activities are also needed. For more details, contact Aaron Rangoonwala, program developer and community partnership liaison, at 366-8826 or Aaron.Ran goonwala@mpls.k12.mn.us.

Wellstone offers typical high school activities such as student council and clubs. This fall, the school had its second homecoming celebration, which centered on a soccer match against Roosevelt (Wellstone won 3-2 in the last two minutes). Students go on field trips, such as to Fort Snelling, and they celebrate their native cultures on Culture Day.  

Wellstone is an International Peace Site. Schools and organizations that participate in this program sponsor activities that promote peace and justice in the world. The pole outside Wellstone is a peace pole, and it proclaims “May peace prevail on Earth” in 16 different languages.