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July 7, 2008

Seattle, WA – School may be out for most children in Washington, but some educators already are hard at work lining up next fall's after-school programs and teachers for English Language Learners (ELL). They classes are aimed at some 55,000 Latino and other students just learning English in the Evergreen State. Latinos now make up 12 percent of Washington's students, and many of them need extra help.

A program called Pathways to Excellence assisted 1,500 ELL students last year. Jackie Hillseph, professional development director with School's Out Washington, says the program plans to reach thousands more this year in new parts of the state.

"For some of the refugee and immigrant communities, we're going to go farther north geographically, and we will still have a few in the urban Seattle area, as well."

In order to reach out to those new areas, the program needs to find new after-school programs and instructors who would like to be involved. School's Out Washington can be contacted for information at

Even as Pathways to Excellence shifts to new parts of the state, it leaves in place more than 50 instructors, such as Sheila Arriaga, who teaches in the Yakima area of eastern Washington. She learned new ways to reach out and instruct Washington state's increasingly diverse student body.

"In the area I worked in, predominately it was Spanish-speaking students, but I know over on the west side of the state they had a wide range, from Somali to Russian and Hmong. They had a diverse group of different languages to deal with there."

Pathways to Excellence will continue to provide refresher training to teachers like Sheila so they keep their skills sharp.

Chris Thomas/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WA