By Martha G Abbott, AFT American Educator, Vol. 42, NO. 2, Summer 2018

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“Even before having children, Jimell Sanders was intent on ensuring that her local school would be able to offer the opportunity of early second language learning. A health systems specialist at the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington, D.C., Sanders grew up in a military family and attended school with bilingual and multilingual peers. She observed firsthand the value of speaking a second language. But when she began researching language programs within her school district, she encountered a lottery system with lengthy waitlists to enter schools offering dual-language programs. She immediately set about working with her neighborhood school to supplement its language offerings. After gaining approval and support from the mayor and the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools, Sanders’s local school, Charles H. Houston Elementary—a Title I school with a majority African American student population—started an English/Spanish dual-language program, where her daughter is now enrolled.1

Nearly a decade later, Sanders looks back with pride on her community activism. By helping to establish the DC Language Immersion Project, a grass-roots organization that advocates for language learning in schools, she successfully increased educational opportunities in her community.

Today, growing legions of parents are advocating for second language learning in their local schools. Like Sanders, these parents do not consider second language acquisition a skill that’s just “nice to have” but one that is vital in an increasingly global environment. This environment requires Americans to equip themselves with languages that will allow them to interact not only with those outside our country’s borders but also with those in our local communities whose first language is not English.”