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Latin American Coalition

Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, North Carolina) has 17,000 students with limited English skills. In 2015, the Charlotte Mecklenburg School graduation rate for Latino students was 79.4 percent, compared with 91 percent for non-Latino students.

Knowing that an estimated 70,000 CMS students don't have access to Internet at home, while 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires it, the Latin American Coalition (LAC), the largest immigrant rights organization in the Carolinas, expanded its educational classes to include two levels of English classes and digital literacy. Its goal was to reach Latino parents with school-age children who lacked the resources or abilities to assist their children with homework on the computer.

By reaching out to a community partner, Digital Charlotte, LAC was able to acquire a donation of 16 refurbished laptops, which it offered to students as an incentive for consistent attendance in the digital literacy course.

To recruit even more families, LAC began offering an advanced English Conversation class and volunteer program—a move that prompted adult students to start bringing their middle and high school age children to class.

The Center's English Conversation class is at capacity with adult and high school students, who report feeling more confident communicating in professional and educational settings through practicing their English in small groups, where they aren't scared to make mistakes—and learn from them.

Cristian, who began attending classes with his mom, has an intermediate level of English. He started coming to the Center to support his mom's involvement with the program. Now, he volunteers to assist students who have very minimal English knowledge and gain experience as a teacher. His mom states she loves seeing how patient he is helping other students and when they go home he helps her with her homework, and they encourage each other to practice their English when out in the community.

Last year alone, LAC's family engagement and learning programs served close to 200 individuals. It plans to use the Innovation Grant funding to purchase general program materials such as a new white board, books, and a Laptop computer to project class material during all educational classes.

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