SAIL program helps Madison’s young English language learners soar

It’s called the English Language Summer Adventures In Learning program, or SAIL.

Approximately 85 students from Madison City Schools are currently taking part in this 6-week program at Madison Elementary. In the decade since its formation, the camp’s focus is to avert summer learning loss among a very vulnerable population – kids whose native tongue is not English.

Studies show that a summer program intentionally focused on a strong language and cultural awareness component for these children can dramatically close a learning gap they would otherwise face.

Visit Madison Elementary late in summer and the halls would be dark and classes empty. Not now, as the EL SAIL program is filled with happy-chatter children speaking 15 languages including Spanish, Russian, Cantonese, Tamil and Haitian Creole. They are learning English and American customs and social patterns which will make them better prepared when they join their classmates with the school start.

This year’s camp benefits from a growing partnership between Madison City Schools, the Community Foundation’s SAIL, and the Heart of the Valley YMCA. The Schools Foundation helps bridge the partners with MCS as well as programs in Huntsville and Madison County schools.

“This new partnership with the YMCA takes our camp to a higher level, offering students additional opportunities we were not able to provide before. While addressing the summer learning loss, kids with the generous support of the YMCA are able to swim, attend Camp Cha-La-Kee and learn ways to build a stronger community,” said Dr. Natalia Dooley, Federal Programs Coordinator for Madison City Schools.

At Madison MES this year, walls are decorated with kids’ favorite superheroes. That theme will help connect them with kids without the language and cultural barriers. The kids are all there to learn more English and receive enrichment in reading and math in the Power Scholars Academy program supported by Heart of the Valley YMCA, BELL University, Madison City Schools and SAIL.

EL students are smart kids and the EL SAIL program isn’t summer school. The program simply boosts language acquisition around fun learning activities packed with interaction with classmates and teachers.  Without such exposure, EL kids face  increased risk of struggling academically and socially.

Madison City Schools is a very diverse school system, with more than 50 languages spoken at homes throughout the district.