#2 Starting to gather thoughts…

Basically I’ve spent this whole week trying to think of a topic.  I’ve been timid to decide on something that I’m not completely sold on.  Right now the question that is guiding my research is: “What can be put in place as a support system in order to encourage the success of New American students in Vermont?”  I think this is a topic that is evident in Vermont today.  I think that as I get further into the research these next few weeks, my thoughts and ideas will shift.  Currently, I have not done much research at all, therefore I’m not fully educated on the details and size of this issue.  What I do know is that some students who are New Americans struggle adjusting into a new school and their full potential is not being reached.  I am curious about what schools can do to help enable their success.

The first person I decided to interview was my mom.  Her thoughts were, “a mentoring program to help support students.”  I thought this was a great idea because many new students need much more than just academic support.  I am aware that at my school (Shelburne Community School) there is a mentoring program in place for students where certain students are paired with an adult mentor.   I would like to research if other schools in Vermont also have similar programs.  I predict that some may not have enough support for New American students.  My mom also said, “I guess I don’t know what the main hardship is for the students and whether or not the school should be the main place for students to get help.”  I think people (including myself) are not aware enough about this issue.   I’m excited to learn more.

Next, I interviewed my dad, I was curious about how his thought would differ from my mom’s.  “A mentorship program for students, with fellow students as the mentees.”  His thoughts were very similar to my mom’s.  It interesting that both of my parents suggested a mentoring program.”  I agree that this would be an effective way to help New American students.  If their ideas aligned so much, would other people in the community think the same?  Going into next week I am planning on researching what mentoring/support systems already exist and which schools do not have this type of help for students?

Overall, I am super excited now to do more research on my topic and what solutions are possible.  After doing these interviews I feel I have a clearer idea of where I am going with my research and what I want to look into.  I’m definitely planning on collecting some facts next week to get to the truth of this issue.




Williams, Lisa. Personal interview. 23 Sept. 2017

Williams, Tim. Personal interview. 23 Sept. 2017

Featured Image Citation: Tufts University. “Diversity Hand Image.” Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, 2017, nutrition.tufts.edu/about/diversity.


6 Responses to “#2 Starting to gather thoughts…

  • Hey Neva! I’m Anna and I was a student in What’s The Story? last year. I really like the topic you’ve chosen, because it’s a present and important issue in Vermont. I also like that you’re starting with a broad topic so you can research and keep your options open until you decide how to narrow down your focus.
    I think your parents had a good suggestion to institute a one-on-one mentoring program for new American students. That might be a good jumping off point for research – you could look into whether such programs exist in Vermont schools and if so, how effective they are. Last year, a group investigated the English Language Learner programs in Vermont and discovered many were less than functional. You could talk to school administrations and guidance departments to figure out how they handle new Americans currently and what kind of support they’re giving, which would give you a better idea of what specifically needs improvement. Additionally, when investigating social issues, it’s important to talk to both professionals AND the people who are affected by the institution/issue. In this case, it would be important to talk to immigrants about their experience, what kind of support they’ve received, what struggles they’ve had, and resources or opportunities they wish they had.
    I can actually offer a little personal insight here, because I’m currently studying abroad in Spain. It’s different from immigration, but the cultural assimilation process is similar. I’ve been here 3 1/2 weeks and I can tell you that the language is the most difficult part of moving to a different country. The cultural differences and customs can be hard to adapt to. School is also very much a struggle, partly due to the language barrier and partly to the sheer difference in American and Spanish school systems and curriculums.
    As such, I have a few suggestions for change you could pursue based on personal experience. First, the mentoring program that your parents suggested would be very beneficial, as communication is much easier to talk to a single person as opposed to a large group. It would also provide a person for the immigrants to trust and form a relationship with, sort of like an emotional home base. You could also put a tutoring program in place in schools with both educators and other students, so the new Americans could receive help in academics, improve their knowledge of the language, and form relationships with people their own age simultaneously. This would seriously help the cultural assimilation process.
    I would also suggest forming a support network that connects immigrants with other immigrants in their communities. This way, they can ask questions and share their experiences so they don’t feel so alone and can get advice from people who are going through and have gone through the same thing. As an exchange student, I’m connected with other exchange students in Spain and it’s incredibly helpful to talk to them and learn about their experiences, as well as discuss my own. You could also involve educators, medical professionals and legal workers in this network, so immigrants are connected with the community and can get information and help they may not have access to as easily otherwise.
    These are just a couple suggestions to hopefully help you think about your topic from all aspects and maybe get the research ball rolling. This is such an exciting topic that you can do so much with and I’m looking forward to seeing where you take it! Feel free to contact me with any questions about your issue or What’s The Story? in general. I can’t wait to see your next blog post and follow your progress!

    -Anna Buteau

    • Hi Anna!

      Sorry I’m so late to reply, but nice to “meet” you. Your personal insight is very helpful and I think that traveling abroad has a lot of similarities to my topic. Once I get to the point of developing a solution. I’m looking forward to hearing more of your helpful advice!


  • Nate Archambault
    5 years ago

    Hi Neva,

    This is certainly a pressing and important topic. Some students from last years cohort had a similar interest and tailored their work to look at ESL in schools. I strongly encourage you to look at the work that they have done.

    I would be interested to see what mentor/support systems exist both at school and in greater communities. Are there things being done to bridge the gap from school to college/workforce for new Americans.

    I suggest you talk to Kati, who was a student last year and this. I;m sure her research could be very helpful to you.



    • Hi again,

      I watched the documentary from last year and it definitely has helped me shape my thinking, even it’s not the exact same direction I’m going. I will definitely reach out to Kati. Also, I believe my friend Petra was part that group last year as well.


  • Rachael
    5 years ago

    Hi Neva!

    I think your mindset about this process is fantastic. The question you asked (“What can be put in place as a support system in order to encourage the success of New American students in Vermont?”) is really going to help you find a clear and organized path to helping you figure out what you want to do in the next few weeks. I think your mom and dad’s idea is great about having mentor groups with fellow students is a great idea and definitely a good place to start from. From those groups, the fellow students could learn so much from the New American students as well, so it seems like a great way for everyone to expand their horizons.

    I know you mentioned researching more about this issue, but you could also consider talking to students who are new american students and just getting some of their opinions and perspectives on the issue. They might say language was the hardest part of integrating into a new school, or academics, or social interactions, and that might give you some more direction. If there are new american students in your own school that you know maybe you could just chat with them. Research will definitely also help though, so I think it’s a great idea to look into the issue and see what schools already have in place, I’m really interested to see what you find.

    I think this is a great topic to start with because it’s so broad and the more you learn about it, the more you can narrow it down to become something really helpful to communities in Vermont. I’m just curious to know how you decided that you wanted to focus on this issue? Are there students that you know who are a part of this issue or have you just heard a lot about it and want to help out?

    I personally don’t know a lot about this issue, although two years ago in a class I took we talked quite about refugees in Vermont and actually spoke to some students that go to Winooski high school about their transition into being in an American school. If there’s anything I can do to help, like trying to contact those students again, please let me know!


    • Hi again,

      4 weeks later, I still need to do some more research on current support in VT. I chose this issue because I’ve heard a lot about it in the news and things. Also, one of the groups last year focused on English education and I found that very interesting. I’m planning to take a different path than ELL education though. I have observed that some students at my school who don’t speak English at home or their families are new to the U.S. seem to struggle at times. I’m not saying that these students aren’t thriving in the school system, but I think that more help for them and their families would be helpful. The class you took 2 years ago seems cool. I’m not quite sure if this is right, but I think the Winooski School District in the most diverse one in the state. I think later in this process, they would be a great place to reach out to.


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