Easton, Maryland, May 25, 2015 –The Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center (ChesMRC) was one of two organizations to win the 2015 Maryland English Language Learning Family Involvement Network (MELLFIN) ELL Family Engagement Award. The award was presented at the annual MELLFIN Conference held on Wednesday, May 20 at the Church of Philippi in Hanover, Maryland and attended by more than 350 educators and practitioners from community organizations across the state of Maryland and neighboring states.
Founded in 2001, MELLFIN was created to share information and resources in support of English language learners (ELL) families living in Maryland. The ELL Family Engagement Award is an annual award for a program whose exemplary efforts to engage English language learner (ELL) families have made significant impacts in the lives of ELL youth and families. MELLFIN created the award to highlight model programs that demonstrate best practices for ELL family engagement and to encourage other groups to implement similar initiatives. Eligible programs are hosted by staff from school systems, community organizations, and/or businesses within the state of Maryland.
ChesMRC was an award recipient due to its exemplary work with non-English speaking families on the Mid-Shore. In partnership with Talbot County Public Schools, ChesMRC serves 120 students and their families, the majority of which are Latino families who immigrated to the United States from Guatemala. It is a great advantage that the Director of ChesMRC, Matthew Peters, spent 13 years working and living in rural Guatemala. In addition to being a fluent Spanish speaker, he brings a unique point of view in how he connects to and engages immigrant families in their program. “We have one-on-one conversations with each parent and help them to develop long-term strategies, 5-10 years out. They know that we all in with them for the long haul” said Matthew.
The ChesMRC also provides adult education programs to parents of students participating in the 21st Century Community Learning Center Afterschool program by connecting families with private and public services and providing a physical space where community members can share information with these families. They have a strong partnership with Chesapeake College, where parents take English language classes and a volunteer-based study group, which supports families as they learn English.
Additionally, ChesMRC provides driver’s license classes and immigration clinics and workshops, and four families have already become U.S. Citizens. Matthew adds, “We encourage families to lead. For example, we received small grants for health outreach and paid for parents to accompany us to conferences, trainings and meetings. We find little grants and other funds and then let parents run the show.”