Q&A w/ Beselot Mekonnen

Jenna Heng

Every year, West welcomes new students to its hallways, but few students have a background as interesting and unique as sophomore Beselot Mekonnen. Mekonnen is one of the newest members to the English Language Learners, or ELL, program.

“It [ELL] provides basic communication skills,” ELL teacher Karen Crosby said.

ELL is comprised of primarily Spanish speakers with only a handful of students from countries whose primary language is not Spanish and Mekonnen is one of these few.

Mekonnen hails from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s official language is Amharic. She came to the United States over the summer and presently lives with her brothers, although her mother and extended family still reside in Ethiopia.

West and Mekonnen’s former school in Ethiopia differ drastically in class content, rules and more.

“There are many differences. One big difference is that in Ethiopia we only take content area classes, no electives,” Mekonnen said.

At West, she spends two blocks of the day in the ELL classroom. One hour is spent with ELL teacher Sarah Louis while the other hour is spent with Crosby.

“In my country, the teachers move from classroom to classroom. The students remain in the class. We wear uniforms in Ethiopia. No cell phones allowed or electronics in school,” Mekonnen said.

Although adjusting to a new school and a new country provides difficulties, the ELL program at West has aided Mekonnen’s integration into the American education system as well as introduced her to other cultures.

“My favorite part [about ELL] is meeting students from other countries. I learn about their customs and cultures,” Mekonnen said.