Photo collage of CLC classroom activities

Creating ‘home away from home’ for refugees, families new to country and Jacksonville

Sept. 9, 2022 – It isn’t easy being new in town and trying to navigate a new school system.

But imagine that experience if you’re brand new to the country and still working to acquire the English language.

That is the case for the more than 8,900 English Language Learning students and their families who call Duval home and attend district schools.

For these students and families, the district is working to smooth the path through one of its best-kept secrets…The Center for Language and Culture (CLC).

Located on the Kings Trail Elementary School campus, the center provides resources for refugees, immigrants, and families who have relocated to Jacksonville from non-English speaking countries.

“The CLC is the district’s parent resource center for all our multilingual families newly arrived in our county,” said the district’s Director of ESOL, Ingrid Carias. “Our goal is to provide a welcoming environment away from home where we want to create a sense of belonging and value the beauty of diversity and multilingualism.”

The day-to-day operations of the CLC is overseen by the CLC coordinator, Joanne Ortiz.

“We have families who are trying to navigate bus schedules, school orientations, classwork, while oftentimes still working to learn English and adjust to the United States,” said Ortiz. “That is where the CLC steps in. We partner with multiple agencies in Duval, such as the JSO and City of Jacksonville, to orient new families to the city and help Jacksonville become their home.”

Ortiz said one of the primary goals of the CLC is to help place students in the best schools and classrooms based on their level of English proficiency. When new students arrive, the center conducts proficiency testing, and based on the outcome, helps place students. They also help families register for school services such as transportation.

Additional resources include:

  • Translation Support
  • Homework assistance for students
  • Mentoring and afterschool programs for students
  • Daytime language classes for parents
  • Parent and community outreach programs
  • Informational community sessions in various languages
  • Citizenship Test Preparation
  • Immigration guide sessions

Ortiz said the CLC not only provides transitional services, but also aims to create a sense of community through monthly group activities.

The CLC is one thread in the fabric of support services for English Language Learner families through the district’s ESOL department.

Visit the ESOL department to learn more about how students are supported. For information about the CLC or to learn about how to receive services, families can call 904-739-4891 or email [email protected].

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