Dual-language classes taught at Allen Jay Elementary in High Point

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- At High Point's Allen Jay Elementary, a classroom filled with kindergartners are happily singing along to a video. By listening to the rhythm, you can tell the children are reciting their A-B-Cs. But the characters on the screen and the language the kids are speaking might be unfamiliar to a lot of us.

"Thirty percent of our students are English speakers. Thirty percent are Spanish speakers. Thirty percent speak Urdu," Principal Carla Flores-Ballesteros said.

Urdu is spoken in Pakistan. Community volunteer and parent Musarat Bahadur explained the Pakistani population is growing in High Point.

"So they all come from one major providence, Punjab. So they are coming here and staying together because it makes them feel at home I think," Musarat Bahadur said.

With such a diverse student body, it made sense for Allen Jay Elementary to host its first ever English/Urdu dual-language program. Since August, the students have been alternating days. One day they will receive their lessons in English. The next day the lessons are in Urdu. Teacher assistant Samina Bahadur said in just a few months, the class has come a long way.

"I do see the growth," Samina Bahadur said. "At the beginning we were like, 'How are the kids going to pick this up.? Now they just start picking it up and every day they are learning."

And every day through language, Flores-Ballesteros believes the school community is coming together.

"Our parent involvement has increased tremendously. Every activity the parents come," Flores-Ballesteros said. "And if we ask them to do something, they do because they understand."

Musarat Bahadur agreed.

"They want to know what's happening, they want to know how to be involved," Musarat Bahadur said. "They just didn't know how to be involved because the language was a barrier."

The kindergartners are the first students to sign up for the voluntary dual-language program. Dual Language Curriculum Facilitator Helen Rushby stands behind the program. Studies have shown that students that know multiple languages tend to be better students. Plus, Rushby feels the dual-language program is creating well rounded students.

"One of the biggest benefits is that they are more aware of cultures and they are committed to make this a better world," Rushby said.

In the future Allen Jay Elementary would like to expand the English/Urdu program to other grade levels. Allen Jay Elementary also has a English/Spanish dual-language program.

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