Binto Matan, right, helps Hawo Dakane get ready for the Lewiston High School graduation in 2016. Both were headed to college.
In 2011, about 52.5 percent, or 21 of 40 ELL seniors, graduated with their class.
Five years later, 87.5 percent of ELL seniors graduated in June. The total number of Lewiston High graduates who marched on June 20 was 215.
The 10 ELL students who didn’t graduate with their calls weren’t giving up, Katelin Paquette, director of Student Services at the high school, said. Seven were returning to high school for a fifth year; the remaining three “aged out” and were referred to Lewiston Adult Education.
High school students are “aged out” if they turn 20 before the school year begins.
High School Principal Shawn Chabot credited the high graduation rates to immigrant students’ work ethic and how their parents value education.
“It’s a credit to that population and their willingness to work hard,” he said. Many immigrant families “value education and see it as an opportunity, whereas some of the non-ELL families may take it for granted,” he said.
Lewiston Adult Education — Classes are full of Somali immigrants and those from other countries. Last June, Lewiston Adult Education Director Bill Grant said 1,367 adult students are learning English, that immigrant students make up half of the adult education population.
Central Maine Community College — Dean of Planning Roger Philippon used the word “remarkable” to describe how diverse the student body has become. The college doesn’t track the ethnic backgrounds of students, but Philippon estimated 20 percent or more of CMCC students are from minority groups. “One need only walk the halls between classes to see evidence of this,” he said.
Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services — Rilwan Osman, a Somali refugee, is executive director of MIRS, a Lewiston organization that provides youth soccer, citizenship classes, language lessons, tutoring and homework mentoring. The majority of students from immigrant families who graduate from high school go to college, Osman said. Of the Somali Bantu populations resettled in the United States, he said, “we have the highest high school graduation rates and highest number of youth going to college.”
Tree Street — Julia Sleeper grew up in Maine and graduated from Bates College. She co-founded the Tree Street Youth Center, which provides youth from largely immigrant families with tutoring, enrichment programs and help getting ready for college. In the past five years, more of her high school seniors are graduating and going to college, Sleeper said. “As kids become more exposed to different career paths, students realize college is an important and powerful step in their future.”