The VCU Multilingual Ambassador Program is one of only five projects selected for REAL Challenge Grant funding as part of the 2021 REAL Grants Initiative. The ambassador program is led by Jenna Lenhardt, Ph.D., recruitment specialist in the VCU School of Education’s Office of Enrollment Management, and it aims to connect multilingual students at VCU with multilingual students in Region 1 K-12 schools in central Virginia.
The overall goals of the program are to:
Lenhardt said that the program is key to helping Region 1 K-12 multilingual students learn more about college and career pathways that celebrate their multilingual skills.
“We want to provide additional information and support to students from their peers as they navigate and learn more about how to maximize their multilingual skill sets,” said Lenhardt. “There are multiple aspects of this program, from UndocuAlly training to a final K-12 student visit to VCU to meet faculty, staff and students. This includes having K-12 students interact with their peers from across Region 1.”
According to the Virginia Department of Education, the drop-out rate for English language learners (ELL) was 25% in Virginia in 2020. In comparison, the drop-out rate for non-ELL students was only 3.22%. The ambassador program will place VCU students in K-12 schools to provide in-school ELL tutoring, mentoring, and career and college readiness presentations, which will support student success as well as future generations of potential VCU students. There are five individual schools participating across four districts: Dinwiddie Public Schools, Henrico Public Schools, Petersburg Public Schools and Richmond Public Schools, representing over 500 English Learners (ELs) from elementary through high school ages.
The REAL Grants support faculty, programs and departments as they seek ways to increase access to transformative, high impact experiential learning opportunities both in and beyond the classroom. This marks the second year of the REAL Challenge Grants Initiative, with this year featuring an increased collaboration with Community-Engaged Research (CEnR) in the Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success. The ambassador program is co-funded by CEnR.