Sharing the Good News
ESL Graduates Celebrate Success
What’s the first thing you do when you learn something new? Share it with a friend or family member. Lulu Alsalem, who graduated in 2016 from the ESL Academy, University of Colorado Denver, was pleased to discover how well the Academy had prepared her for university when she entered classes at CU Denver’s College of Engineering and Applied Science in Fall 2016. Naturally, she shared the good news with her younger brother, Doaij, who was living in Kuwait and interested in earning a dentistry degree in the United States. In May 2017, the siblings celebrated together, along with dozens of CU Denver friends, faculty, and staff, as Doaij and his Level 5 classmates graduated from the ESL Academy.
“Through the ESL Academy, I learned how to not only speak English well, but also to conduct research, write a ten-page paper, and present it in English,” said Lulu.
“Because of the ESL Academy, I have many new friends,” added Doaij.
During the graduation ceremony, ESL Academy Director Marcel Bolintiam explained more about the history of English language instruction in America. One of the first programs began at Columbia University, New York, in 1911. Since then, teaching methods have continued to evolve. The ESL Academy at CU Denver employs the most up-to-date assessment and teaching techniques for five different ESL levels that prepare international students for success in classrooms and in real-world business environments.
“I had the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia recently for an international student recruitment fair in Riyadh,” said Bolintiam. “Alumni of the ESL Academy and CU Denver greeted us warmly and welcomed us to their city. It is critical in today’s world to share and embrace tolerance, diversity, and peaceful resolution. This can be fostered through higher education and the opportunities available at CU Denver.”
Bolintiam noted that ESL Academy students become accustomed to the academic rigors necessary to succeed; this prepares them well for CU Denver classes. They have also learned that they may have a different perspective than their teachers on certain topics—and that they have the right to respectfully express a different viewpoint.
The featured speaker at the ceremony, Jennifer Sobanet, CU Denver Vice-Chancellor of Administration and Finance, acknowledged the graduates’ achievement. She also recognized the support given by their friends and family.
“Take a selfie today, send it back to your family and friends in your home country; thank them for all of their love and support,” she said. “With the current national rhetoric, please do not mistake that for who we are as Americans. We are thrilled that you are here, and CU Denver is always open to you, your family, and your friends.”
Sobanet shared her academic experiences as a study abroad student in Spain and Latin America in the 1990’s. “Treasure your time abroad. When you return home, or continue your studies or career in the U.S., embrace the other young diverse faces and take good care of those young professionals. Because of your international experience, you will be able to help create a better world.”
Three outstanding students presented eloquent graduation speeches and spoke about their experiences in Denver.
“Life comes in chapters, and this chapter of my life began a year ago, after graduation from high school in Kuwait. I wanted to study, but not in the U.S. But I received a scholarship—to the U.S.!” said Maryam Alkhashman.
She reported that her first experiences at the ESL Academy were demanding; she thought often of quitting and going to an easier school. “Sometimes changes can make you feel that you are in a dark place. If you fall seven times, stand up the eighth time,” she said. “I stayed, and now I feel like a different person.”
Alkhashman added, “To my lovely teachers who were so supportive—thank you for every ‘good morning’ that you said to start our day. You really welcomed us into this community.”
An enthusiastic Laila Almarzoog exclaimed: “Graduates, we made it!” She shared that coming to the U.S., alone, away from family, and adapting to a new culture, were extremely difficult. Her comment, “I started ESL Level 2, and after 15 ‘tardy’s’, I figured out how to be a ‘morning person’ in this country” brought many laughs.
She added a word of advice: “Surround yourself with positive thinkers. Things may not always go as we planned, but we can change immediately. Follow your dream, and do what makes you happy.”
Speaker Ali Alqabandy shared similar experiences after wondering what life would be like in Denver. “Before I came here, my friend told me that people in this city are friendly. I have felt welcome, and have never been discriminated against.”
Amidst cheers and rounds of applause, the ESL graduates received their ESL certificates of completion. A number of the students are continuing into degree programs at the University of Colorado Denver. Their intended degrees will be in dentistry, engineering, medicine, physics, urban planning, business, and geography/environmental science.