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Ensuring that all are counted


Posted on Thursday, April 23, 2020, at 4:46 PM

VAL ELL Students Complete Census Ambassador Training and are Featured in World Education Webinar

As Governor Scott’s stay-at-home order was announced in mid-March and Vermont Adult Learning centers around the state had to close their doors, Fiona Cook had been making plans to teach her higher-level ELL students in Brattleboro about the upcoming census. 

At around the same time, The Change Agent, a theme-based newspaper published twice yearly by the New England Literacy Resource Center, with articles written by student authors, had just released its latest issue–“Stand Up and Be Counted”–about the census.  The Change Agent’s website also offered a lesson packet inviting students to “Become a Census Ambassador.”  The packet consisted of readings, information, graphics, a practice census questionnaire, as well as speaking and writing activities, all designed to help students become more knowledgeable about the purpose of the census, find out why it is important to participate, and then learn how to talk about it to others and answer questions.  Fiona delivered packages of these materials to each of the students before the lock-down began.  We then moved to meeting online every Monday and Wednesday mornings.  

Over the following three weeks, the students read the articles together and learned how the information collected by the census allows the government to decide the number of representatives for each state and how much money to send to each community for public programs.  They also learned about the laws that protect privacy and personal data.  It was perfect to have such interesting and timely materials to work with in our new online meeting format, and to be able to keep the students engaged with their language learning and with each other!

To complete the training, the students filled out the practice census questionnaire, wrote a letter to a friend explaining the importance of participating in the census, and did some role plays with each other, answering questions and concerns that friends, family, and neighbors might have.

Three students have now completed the training to be Ambassadors for the Census 2020.  They are Nimisha Patel (from India originally), Jane Shu-Jen Politella (Taiwan) and Ren Yan (China). They were also invited to participate in a World Education webinar on Wednesday April 15 and asked to share their experience with the training materials and talk about how they have used what they learned to encourage others to participate in the census.  

Nimisha commented on how much she learned and how she now felt comfortable talking to others about the census.  She described talking to a family living in Wisconsin, newly-arrived from India, who weren’t sure if they should respond to the census.  She was able to reassure them and tell them how important it was for them to participate.  Jane said she talked with friends and spoke to an online study group of people from different parts of the U.S.  As a new citizen, she values the important rights and responsibilities taking part in the census represents.  Both women said that being able to speak to people in their native languages was very valuable in helping convince their friends and family members of the importance of being counted.

~Submitted by Fiona Cook, ELL Teacher, VAL-Brattleboro

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