June 2, 2016 at 10:15am

Students from Millikin University's School of Education and international students from the English Language Center are collaborating with a local elementary school, Johns Hill Magnet School, on an after-school program that explores culture, language and literacy. The program is called We are Different, We are Friends.

Throughout the spring semester, Millikin University education majors and faculty have been working with bilingual students at Johns Hill Magnet School on developing social and academic confidence through activities that focus on linguistic skills, cultural awareness and academic achievement.

Millikin School of Education

Led by Millikin assistant professors of education Dr. Hee Young Choi, coordinator of the English Language Center, and Dr. Joyce Bezdicek, the program helps Johns Hill students learn about diverse cultures and people in their community.

The after-school program is part of the School of Education's requirement to have its students get endorsements in areas where teacher shortages have developed and also encourage them to acquire other special expertise.

Millikin School of Education

"We want our graduates to be as marketable as possible," said Dr. Christie Magoulias, Millikin associate professor of education and director of the School of Education. "Their versatility makes them more attractive to school districts that may be downsizing or can't find certain kinds of teachers."

The program integrates research, teaching and service with focus on promoting innovation, enhancing social mobility and improving quality of life. The Johns Hill students are able to demonstrate forms of communicative skills through meaningful social interactions. Millikin education students have been working with children, one-on-one, at Johns Hill over the last few years as part of a teacher training program. This is the first time they've collaborated on an after-school program.

Millikin School of Education

Dr. Bezdicek says teachers of English as a second language and special education are in particularly high demand. Elementary education majors must get an endorsement in one or the other and early childhood education majors are required to get both.

Dr. Choi sees the program as a great learning experience for the Millikin students. "It's a well-organized situation where the students actively plan and communicate. They are gaining confidence as well."

Click here to read more about the program in an article from the Herald & Review.