Story & Photos: Sarah Parsons West, originally publi Congo) in Central Africa, to reunite with their parents as immigrants, in Vermont. ?The transition I made from Congo to the U.S. required that I leave behind close relatives and friends to start a new life where I did not know the language or culture.? Fluent in both her native tongues, Lingala and French, English was just a subject she had studied in school, for a few hours a week. ? Back then, English wasn? t something I? d ever use,? she says. ? I got good grades but didn? t focus on it.? Yet, she was at the top of her class in Math and looked forward to choosing a future path toward science and math. ?The girl who was the strongest student in math became nobody in America,? she reflects on the painful memories of her early days at CHS, in one of her numerous essays. ?The language barrier impeded me from showing my capabilities. Sometimes, I was excluded from groups because I did not speak the language, so I was viewed as unintelligent.I had to dig deep inside and refuse to accept the soft bigotry of low expectations.? She and her brother were enrolled in the English Language Learners (ELL) program, which provides EL students with the accompaniment of a language teacher within the normal classroom, as often as possible. The goals of the ELL program are for EL students to learn basic interpersonal communication skills in one to three years; followed by cognitive academic language proficiency. ? I studied every day, including vacations and during the summer, because I wanted to comprehend the material while enriching my English in the process.? Not only was she learning English but adapting to the American culture. ?When coming to a new country, you focus on learning everything new, she says. ? I began neglecting my own identity. You don? t feel comfortable as yourself ? because you? re trying too hard to be one or the other.? As her English comprehension improved, so did her grades, renewing her confidence. ? I? m a Congolese who lives in America, who also needs to know American culture,? she explains. ? I can? t get rid of one, it would change