How a Community School Helps ELLs Succeed

Colorín Colorado and the American Federation of Teachers are pleased to present this video project highlighting the ways in which community schools can help students, particularly English Language Learners (ELLs), be successful.

Visit Wolfe Street Academy in Baltimore, MD, a school with more than 76% ELLs, to see how this community school is supporting its students and families through programs and services that include dental screenings, food giveaways, after-school activities, and much, much more!

How a Community School Helps ELLs Succeed


More About Wolfe Street Academy

Wolfe Street Academy is a community school operated by the Baltimore Curriculum Project that serves over 200 students from Pre-K to 5th grade. Over 76% of students speak a language other than English at home and 96% of students come from low-income households.  Wolfe Street works with a number of partners in Baltimore such as the Upper Fells Point Improvement Association, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the University of Maryland Dental School. In addition, Wolfe Street is also affiliated with the Baltimore Family League.

Note: Wolfe Street is what's known as a "conversion charter school" — a public elementary school that became a charter school.  However, the charter status was not required to become a community school. In fact, Baltimore has more than 43 community schools, most of which are traditional public schools.

What is a community school?

The Coalition for Community Schools describes community schools the following way:

A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. Community schools offer a personalized curriculum that emphasizes real-world learning and community problem-solving. Schools become centers of the community and are open to everyone – all day, every day, evenings and weekends.

To learn more, see our resource section on community schools and our interview with Shital Shah, a community schools expert at the American Federation of Teachers.

Interviews with Featured Educators & Partners

Mark Gaither, Principal

Mark Gaither is the Principal of Wolfe Street Academy. In this in-depth interview, Mark talks about the what, who, how, and why of community schools; describes some of the services that Wolfe Street offers its families; and shares some of his favorite success stories from more than a decade as principal.

Connie Phelps Bozek, Community School Coordinator

Connie Phelps Bozek, LGSW, is the community school coordinator at Wolfe Street Academy. In this interview, Connie talks about what her job entails, describes the characteristics of successful partnerships with community organizations, and shares some of her favorite success stories.

Tiffany Judy, Out of School Time Director

Tiffany Judy is the Out of School Time Director for Wolfe Street Academy. In this interview, she explains how the after-school program works, the kinds of opportunities it offers, and the benefits it provides for students, families, and teachers.

Katrina Kickbush, Special Education Teacher and Union Rep

Katrina Kickbush is a special education teacher at Wolfe Street Academy and her local union building representative. In this interview, she talks about how the community school strategy benefits teachers, students, and families. She also talks about the school's outreach to Mixtec-speaking families.

Iveth Monterrosa, PTO President

Iveth Monterrosa is a parent of two children attending Wolfe Street Academy and is also the PTO president. In this interview, Iveth talks about the many ways the school has supported her family, discusses her increased involvement in the PTO, and shares the goals she and her husband share for their children's future.

Floridalma Argueta, Parent

Floridalma Argueta is the mother of two daughters who have attended Wolfe Street Academy. She shares the story of her younger daughter, whose hearing loss was diagnosed by a team at Wolfe Street that then advocated for access to special services, equipment, and eventually a cochlear implant.

Dr. Clemencia Vargas, University of Maryland Dental School

Dr. Clemencia M. Vargas, DDS, PhD is an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. In this interview, she discusses the dental school's partnership with Wolfe Street Academy, the obstacles that undocumented families face in getting regular dental care, and how oral health can impact school success.

Giselle Lundy-Ponce, American Federation of Teachers

Giselle Lundy-Ponce is the Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President at the American Federation of Teachers and a former Associate Director of AFT's Educational Issues Department. In this interview with Colorín Colorado, Giselle discusses the community school strategy and AFT's work on Colorín Colorado.

Shital Shah, American Federation of Teachers

Shital Shah is the Manager of Philanthropic Engagement at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). In her prior position at the AFT as an assistant director for educational issues, she focused on expanding community school initiatives and visited numerous community schools across the country. In this interview with Colorín Colorado, Shital explains what community schools are and how they work, how they benefit school communities, students, families, and partners, and how schools interested in the community schools model can get started.

The Benefits of Community Schools

Randi Weingarten, President of AFT (American Federation of Teachers), discusses the benefits of community schools for English language learners.